Ever have those characters that have to be the moral compass? Feel like you’re writing someone with a few too many morals? That’s OK, because I think you need to.
Every book, at least in most genres, needs that character, whether it’s the lead or, as is more likely, the sidekick or best friend, who really has to tell the lead character when to stop. They are your voice of reason. Maybe you are the voice of reason in real life. Maybe that’s why they crop up so often.
I find I usually have one character like this, the one that knows just how far to let the other characters go before putting their foot down. In my novel, it’s probably my main character, Laurie, even though for most of the book he’s not the most dependable or straight thinking character. I usually have a character who just won’t take any crap from the others and will tell them, straight out to stop doing whatever it is they are doing to hurt people/mess things up/ruin their lives.
Characters need to show the variety of human emotion, but too many characters are you’re just plotting one character for everything. Why have an angry character, a happy character, a sad character, all of whom are two-dimensional and boring, when you can roll them into one. Humans feel everything, even if they seem to be happy/sad/angry all the time. Too many characters is too much for the reader to deal with. People want to know what’s going on in a book, who everyone is and who they’re supposed to be rooting for. We did an exercise at uni and we had to say how many main characters we had in our novels. Now, bear in mind I say main characters. Apparently the maximum number is about 3-5. Any more and it’ll just get confusing. Roll all those sub-characters and subplots into one if you must, just don’t confuse your reader!
Currently reading: I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith