Excuse me a moment while I scream. YAAAAAAAARRGGHHH!11!!!!ONEone. Okay, that’s better. So now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about writing large groups of characters, a topic of much hair pulling and flustered frustration.
There are a few basic ways to handle more than, say, four characters in a scene. The easiest is to simply not do it. This is normally my preferred method because I like to keep things focused on specific characters, pairings, or small events.
But there are always exceptions, and I do occasionally bite the bullet and write anything up to eight characters. Or even ten to twelve in very rare situations. So let’s go over some of the ways I handle this when necessary.
Split the Group for the Whole Chapter/Scene:
Potentially the easiest option for a large group, simply split it into two or three smaller, more manageable groups. For example, I have a group of eight characters and a part of my story demands that all eight characters be taken on a special trip/event together. So I split them into two groups: Group A, the important group, and Group B, the less important group.
Group A has the four characters this part (chapter, scene, whatever) mostly focuses on. Group B has the more incidental, background characters. By determining which were most important to this part of the work, I can easily focus on them while still keeping the others around for cross-group dialogue and events, without confusing matters by trying to have eight characters talking in one scene. (more…)