Thursday, December 28, 2006

Drowning in Characters

Today I had a surprise visit from my brother-in-law who lives in Georgia. He was in town to spend a few days with his brother. Since I hadn’t seen him in about a year, we did a lot of talking over coffee. I told him about my family and he told me about his. There was more to talk about with his family since he’s not only a father, he’s a grandfather and a great-grandfather! Gracious, I’m not even a grandmother yet.

Problem is – and I hate to admit this – I got lost in all the kids and kids of kids. I couldn’t tell which kids belonged to which kids, let alone where everyone lives nowadays. Seemed to me, his grandkids should be adolescents, not having practically grown kids of their own. What I needed was a written family tree to look at and take notes on as he talked.

I feel that way about some books I read. There are so many characters I get totally lost. I scan back through the book, trying to remember exactly who they are and how they’re “related” to the protagonist. I read a name and I can’t remember whether Winston was the plumber or if that was Wendell. Was Elizabeth the third in line to the throne or the lady in waiting?

I’m a big believer in limiting characters or at least introducing them slowly so the reader has time to adjust. I also believe in giving characters distinctive names – unless there’s some particular reason to do otherwise.

Basically, I want to be able to read a book without having to wonder who’s who. Otherwise, I want a legend in the back to refer to.

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