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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I've heard that James Patterson intentionally uses a 6th grade vocabulary in his books.
I don't believe this 6th grade crap, but anybody interested in communicating with a wide audience would never send the reader to a dictionary.
I agree 100%, John. Readers can be snobs. It's about story!!!!!
For the majority it's about the story, yes. But the minority should get what they want once in a while, too, so I keep writing.
Weren't the Sopranos and the Wire popular because of the story?
John, agreed. Neither X-Files nor Fringe were/are for everybody. Just like Wife Swap isn't for everybody. That's just the way the world turns.
Jon, you have to watch The Wire. It was so good, so different, I don't know how to describe it. Outrageous. Violent. Hilarious. Frightening. What a ride.
(I can't get this to go under the comment about The Sopranos and The Wire and story.)

Those shows were never popular the way a CSI or Law and Order is popular. They're niche market shows. That's the great thing about cable, because of the subscription fee (even though Jon says it's too much ;) and DVD sales, the shows don't have to get the huge ratings of a network show. If they were books they'd never be on the NYT bestseller list.

But of course, story drives them. And character. And even theme - think of Tony and the ducks and all that symbolism. You really need it all. If you want to use the kitchen anaology again, those shows are too spicy for mainstream success - they're the small, local restauarant owned by a chef and James Patterson is a McDonalds franchise.

I'm just glad all these choices are available.
You know, if the Sopranos could have been shown on network TV, violence, nudity, obscenities and all, it might have worked. I'm not convinced it was a niche show--people love gangster stories. The broadcast restrictions and the relatively high cost of production made it only feasible for subscription TV, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have succeeded in a larger market, given the opportunity.

It's not that HBO itself is too expensive--it's the digital cable/satellite package you have to have in order to even get HBO. We do the super-secret stripped down cable, local broadcast only, for $9.95 a month. I just can't see paying over $600 a year for cable content we don't like and don't watch.
We like gangster stories because they are really corporate crime narratives stripped of pretensions. Exxon has probably destroyed more lives than the mob.
I like that theory, Doug. I think we identify in a way with that kind of amorality--we've all known these Dillinger/Tony characters, probably--these charming guys who do whatever the hell they want and get away with it, and make us like them in the process. We want to keep watching, to see if they ever get what's coming to them. For me, one of the things I like about Tony Soprano is the directness of his problem-solving method--somebody screws with him, they're dead. I think we all occasionally long for a world in which we could solve our worst problems--and settle our scores--with that kind of authority/impunity. Part of me does, at least.
And while we're at it, how about video games? Many require much more attention and thought than the days of the brick bopping Mario Brothers. There are extensive story lines that rival those of novels.

When my older relatives think the Wii is worth the money, video games have turned a corner.

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