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Dealing with Multiple Characters

Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Today I am writing about Dealing with Multiple Characters.
When writing my novels I frequently deal with multiple characters. This is common to most writers. But in my case, I like to let the reader into a character’s mind instead of just telling the reader what the character is thinking.
This immediately presents a situation where the character could take over more than his or her part of the story. I must always remember who the primary character is in the book. In my Bible based series The World That Was this is not a major problem because the Bible has already told me who the primary characters are and their role. But in the series Christland I have a great deal more freedom which also means I face different problems.
Multiple characters can be a distraction.
Especially if the character has a limited role. For example, in Death Ship to the Stars there was Ralph Abernathy. He had a brief but important role early in the story, albeit a limited role, while people he connected with had more enduring roles. Keeping him in his proper place yet allowing the reader to get to know him kept me busy. But I believe I accomplished the task.
On the other hand Agent X was constantly being revealed through his thinking.
How Did You Do It?
Basically, I only allowed the reader into Ralph’s mind when he was alone or for only a brief time. Agent X’s identity was secret. For awhile the reader may have included Ralph as the true identity of Agent X. In fact, several people in the novel were possibilities so I limited the amount of time they were given for us to see their thinking. I restricted these moments to only those that were important for the reader to see.
I also kept to the Primary Character rule.
What’s the Primary Character Rule?
That’s my name for keeping the primary character up front even if not in view at the time. In the case of Ralph most of his interactions were with Sarah, so she was always treated as the Primary Character when in his presence. Of course, she actually was one of two primary characters.
On the other hand there was Miss M. Since she was something of a mystery woman (not revealed until Book 3) I kept her thoughts restricted. She did think and the reader listened in, but I also kept her true identity secret while dropping a clue once in a while. But she was also a primary character that was viewed through the eyes of Colonel Michaels and General Smith. So there was a balancing act between revealing her and hiding her identity.
Should a Writer Always have Multiple Characters?
Actually that is up to the author. Multiple characters can get messy. You must try to keep them consistent and in their proper roles. In my Bible based novel Perished The World That Was I had multiple characters imposed by the Bible itself. Some of the characters had the same name. (I would not recommend having multiple characters with the same name, but dealing with the Bible required them.)
When the book was reviewed a man purporting to be a Christian reviewed it. But instead of reading it honestly he skipped through the book. You guessed it. By skipping he ran into characters with the same name but didn’t know they were actually different people. So it resulted in a poor review. (By the way I have kept the review because even a poor review can be a good review. Most people reading his review will spot the problem.) Don’t let that scare you most reviewers are honest in their approach.
Multiple characters can be problematic, but the larger your story the more likely you’ll have them. The key is to keep them consistent or develop them over a period of time. And keep their relationship with the primary character consistent.
What About Only the Primary’s Thoughts Being Revealed?
That is a legitimate solution. In fact, that is what most writers do and I believe I’ve read experts advise such. In my opinion, if you can handle multiple characters thinking go ahead and try it. I believe when you can let the reader truly get to know the characters it can be worthwhile but just remember it also requires hard work on yourself.
ARE YOU A BOOK REVIEWER? I am always looking for book reviews. Whether it is Perished The World That Was (Book One), World of Noah and the Ark (Book Two), World of Shem (Book Three), World of Abraham (Book Four) or Death Ship (Book One), Pauline A New Home (Book Two), or Task Force Hunter (Book Three), I value your reviews.
If you would like to review any of these books contact me at with the subject line indicating that desire. An example of an appropriate subject line would be: ‘Seek to review [book Title].’ In the email make sure to indicate your email address, your name, and the choice of copy (PDF or ePub).

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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.

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