Someone pointed out to me that my book has 30 characters and that could be a problem.  If it were War and Piece, that's one thing; but my novel will probably be about 300 pages.  Of course, many of these characters are cops, assorted thugs, etc. 

I've excised one character but can't see how I can get rid of more.  Any ideas about this?

There are exceptions: Cormac McCarthy's Suttree has a zillion characters but he somehow gets it to work.

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Right, John. I hate it when people blame TV for everything. You made a great point. And while you're talking about The Sopranos and Deadwood, two of my favorites, don't forget Who Wants To Marry My Mom, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and Anna Nicole reruns. I'd write more, but Wife Swap is coming on in a few minutes and I have to prepare my chips 'n' dip.
Yeah, turns out Wife Swap isn't what I thought it was about.
One of those great ideas ruined by the committee process, I'm guessing. Could've been a really interesting show.
Watch what you accuse me of. I did not refer to genre specifically, or exclusively. Readers come in all varieties. My own are very well educated people as a rule. But I do not write best sellers and probably never will. The reason is that neither my subject nor my style fit the preferences of most buyers of high-profile books.
Television mostly sucks.
The reason is that neither my subject nor my style fit the preferences of most buyers of high-profile books.

Style and subject are choices we all make. It's pure hubris to blame the audience for not embracing the products of that decision-making, if in fact they don't. To the extent that my books succeed, I plan to take full credit. To the extent that they fail to attract a mass audience so I can retire to Costa Rica, should I blame the mass audience for not being smart enough to get them?
Oh, for God's sake, lay off me. I haven't done anything to you. In fact I bought one of your books and said nice things about it here. Maybe it's also wise not to diss members of this group.
I'm not dissing you, IJ, I'm disagreeing with you.
It can be a problem. This is the first line in the Publishers Weekly review of my novel, Let It Ride: "Too many characters and points of view throw off the rhythm of this sprawling..." Apparently it goes on to say some nice things, I don't know, I stopped reading ;) Other reviews have said the same thing, too many characters. Of course, there have been some good reviews, too.

I think is a case of agents worrying too much about the audience, seeing readers the same way they see moviegoers. Of course, that's because agents want to sell as may books as movies sell tickets and that's quite rare.

I say books are for a niche audience and it's better to challenge that audience and try and get it, than to try and spread yourself too thin.

But that's probably me just trying to justify the poor sales of my books.
You raise an interesting point re POV, John. Unless you're doing Virginia Woolf-style multi-POV stream-of-consciousness, you want to be careful about reliably bringing POV back to your main character when you go off into other characters' heads. Do have fun with POV; write the hunt from the lion's perspective, by all means. But you have to bring it back to your principals pretty damn quick, and you have to do it every time--readers want to know whose story it is, and need to be able to identify with a strong central character. I do, anyway.
I've read that criticism of your books, and I think I know where it comes from. (That's different from saying I agree with it.) In Swap/Let it Ride, I think of Get as the main character because he appears first, last, and his appearance drives much of the intervening action, though sometimes indirectly. He doesn't get the lion's share of "screen time." I think some readers--including reviewers--are looking for a main character to be the focal point of the book, and you don't give it to them in the way they expect it.

Personally, I like the way you do it. Then again, even my wife says I'm weird.
I try to reduce the number of characters who appear only once. When I need someone to take a particular action, I ask myself whether an existing character can do it. If that doesn't work, then I don't hesitate to introduce a new character.
An excellent plan.

If you're into the Hero's Journey stuff, I also like combining the ally with the mentor.


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