A new appreciation for WAR AND PEACE as a result of watching the eight-hour LIFETIME/BBC TV presentation of the work. I saw the Audrey Hepburn Henry Fonda three and one half hour dramatization of the work, and it did little for me but take up my time.
This new, made-for-TV version must follow the book closely, because I see with the characters that each is distinct but some in more detail than others. I aslo see that there were far too many characters for me to keep in mind while I read the book.
What turned me away from the book, I think, was the fact that Tolstoy used too many words to say what could be said simply. I particularly remember that in one of the first few pages of the book, that Tolstoy used half a page of description to say that Anna Pavlovna was a confidante (I believe of the Czarina) The book is buried someplace in my stacks and shelves even after I tried to read it for the most recent time last year when I reached all the way to page 14 after being stuck at page 8 for years.
The main characters are deep, some deep in their shallowness. The ones that we see briefly, return in the memories of the main characters.
I give the producers credit for choosing Paul Dano to play Pierre Bezukhov, whose depth of sensibility practically dripped from the TV screen, and who, in their version, live happily ever after.
The next time I put my hands on the book, I will probably skim through to see how Tolstoy did it. Yeah, right, easy to understand the depth of genius.
I found myself wondering how the descendants these character's, most of them aristocrats, made out in the revolution that accompanied world war one.
My comments were intended for the "War and Peace" forum, but I suppose they work just as well here.
The Count of Monte Christo is over a thousand pages long, and has a large number of characters. However, one of the most incredible things about that story is how many times a character can rewoven into the story. Some of them serve three different functions, coming in early to play a small part, reintroduced for their main contribution, and then circling back for one last encore that has much more impact because of the reader's previous encounters with them.
Perhaps it would be worth analyzing your story for bit characters that can be used later on for a more significant role. This could both tighten the scope of the story and help your readers engage more. Plus it can always be fun to have a random woman that your protagonist meets in an alley turn out to be a crime boss's wife. It might not work for your story, but it is worth looking into.
Just joining and picking up this thread (we'll see if anyone is listening). I have been listening to a lot of audio books in my car and the voice actors will create "voices" for the characters who are central to the story, but will also tend to find some kind of accent or inflection for even the most minor of character in order that the listener can easily distinguish each voice speaking during dialogue. But at the end of a book, you only really remember the main characters and those that had a significant role. Even so, if you think about a generic story, you have (1) hero; (2) hero's companion/sidekick; (3) hero's boss/director; (4) hero's love interest or other POOS; (5)-(10) -- witnesses, victims, suspects who are part of the investigation; (11) villain; (12) villain's right hand man/girl. So, right there you're up to a dozen characters that you can't really do without.
In my just-finished book, I had not really counted (until now), but there's (1) main hero; (2) hero's partner; (3)-(4) two other detectives assigned to the serial killer task force; (5) FBI profiler who is brought in to help; (6) the Chief of the homicide division - boss to the lead characters; (7) Mayor; (8) Police commissioner; (9)-(15) victims; (16-21) principle witness during the investigation of each victim; (22) reporter who is tracking the case; (23) Hero's love interest -- the county Medical Examiner; (24) The ME's assistant; (25) the villain/killer; (26) the FBI operative who becomes a target; (27) the corporate security chief who helps out in one key scene; (28) the killer's former army buddy whose interrogation leads to a critical clue; (29) the teenage boy who stumbles across the killer's live blog; (30) the teenager's mother. There must be a dozen more tangential people who show up along they way and have lines of dialogue, so thirty is not a large number. The smaller characters come in, serve their purpose, and then leave the narrative, but you have to have them. The question is how many "main" characters to you have -- characters who have back-stories and depth and who need to change/develop/grow during the story? If you try to have thirty of those, then you ARE writing War and Peace.
I wrote a serious political drama a few years back that was almost 500 pages and covered 20 years of time, but it focused in on four main characters who were interrelated and four other characters who were the drivers of the story, so only 8 characters who really had depth and mattered to the ultimate narrative. The current crime-thriller has really only three (besides the killer). Everybody else is necessary, but not hugely significant. I guess you can tell based on how much back-story you have written about them.