Saturday, April 18, 2015

Too Many Characters

     Too many characters--I find this written on almost every critique I get from my editor and beta readers.  For some reason, a romance novel can have only two major character or Points of View, and perhaps a third if you have a really good villain allowed to plot against them. It's a tried and true formula that has worked for Harlequin next to forever and which I find terribly confining. After all, how many people really fall in love and marry in a vacuum of space? Most of us get input from family at the very least. All of us have a workplace full of people and customers to deal with as the courtship goes on. Children come along and have their own opinions.
      I recently judged two well-written Harlequins for the Rita contest. In order for one couple to stay in their own little world, a beloved brother had to be called out of town as soon as they met, not to reappear until the wedding, and the friend who introduced them similarly took off, her role ending there. In the other, the troubled teen who brings the couple together as they try to save her suddenly reforms and leaves them on their own. She does get to be in the wedding.  Never in real life. I guess that is why they are called romances.
      In writing my Sinners series, my quarterback hero has accumulated twelve children and helped his friends with their love problems over the span of five books from Goals for a Sinner to Love Letter for a Sinner. He's accumulated a lot of POV's along the way, and my readers seem to want to be part of his large family and keep up with the other members of the team. I admit, it is best to start reading them with the first or second book as the cast does grow as they go along.  I recently got back a critique that said I'd given everyone a name. Heaven forbid!  The named people aren't props, but family retainers well-known from other books. I do wonder if Downton Abbey has this trouble?  She also felt the other football players should not have names or opinions. Pretty tough to play a game that way. The only solution is to stage all the stories during the off-season with no football at all which is what many sports romances do to keep down the character count. Unfortunately, my guys have Super Bowls to win.
      Diana Gabaldon now has a book for people simply to keep track of her hundreds of characters. Of course, she does say she writes historical novels, not romance.  Would it help if I called my books family sagas, do you think?  It seems every other genre can have as many characters as they want and not get dinged for it. Go figure. I've taken to listing the main characters in the front of my books now, starting with Son of a Sinner. If the sequel to the family saga, Always Yellow Roses, entitled The Courville Rose is ever published it will have a similar list, though I have every faith that my regular readers can handle a story with more than two characters--and long sentences and big words, too, because they are that intelligent.
     Just griping here about one of my favorite pet peeves of romance writing along with being admonished not to use big words. I don't advise new romance writers to defy conventions and go for more POVs.  You won't get published--unless call your stories something else like multigenerational sagas, and good luck with that!


  1. I have absolutely no problem with many characters with names.I just gripes blogged about reading books that described every outfit everyone wore every time,which consisted of mainly capri pants and flip flops, almost always in pink.Another described everyone's shoes, no matter how small of a part they played in the story. Then there was the author that described every morsel, (and the amount) , that each character ate.It was really annoying since there was a weekly meeting with the name of a dessert in the story.And they all ate it, every week...(want to know how much they did?)
    As for big words, bring them on. Another rant of mine was how one writer kept coming up with every possible name for any one thing.She ran out of ways to use them so she'd add, "You mean___?", just to show that the thesaurus actually contained another synonym that she couldn't figure out how to squeeze in otherwise.
    To thine own self, (and stories), be true, Lynn!

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  3. Thanks for making me aware of other things I should avoid-but truthfully, I don't care of chick lit with lots of fashion stuff in it and find those things kind of hard to write because I have no interest in them. Hurrah for big words and long sentences. I think with with the e-readers having dictionaries attached now, maybe we can all increase our vocabulary. I always appreciate your comments, Tonette.