Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Character Lists

A thing of the past, or the latest trend?






            Many books in the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres have dozens of characters. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy comes to mind anytime this topic comes up; it’s myriad characters nearly had me taking notes. My own suspense novels have been criticized as having too many for the reader to keep up with. A reader told me she actually did take character notes when reading She’s Not There, my first novel.
            A friend who also writes suspense is adding a character list to her latest novel and I’m thinking of following suit. These lists will be added to the end of the book for those readers who care to use them.

Some things to think about when adding a list:

1.     Only list a character that will be appearing more than once in the book or the list will get too long.
2.     Include the entire name, title, and nickname of each character if one is used.
3.     Add the list to the end of the book for the benefit of the person reading the digital version. It won’t clutter the opening pages, and will be easy to refer to at the end.
4.     Be sure to include it in the contents as you would a chapter so the reader knows it’s there and where to find it.
5.     Make each character description brief, but be sure it explains their purpose and also their relationship to the main character.

  
Dear Readers,
Please let us know, if, as a reader of books, you would appreciate having a character list for reference, and also, if you are aware of other authors using this tool.
            Character lists were common in books during the forties and the fifties, but seem to have lost their popularity ever since. As an avid reader myself, I’d love to see them make a comeback!
            Thanks for stopping by. Hope you are all finding time to enjoy the beautiful early-summer weather.


Marla

12 comments:

  1. I don't recall reading a book with a character list but sometimes it would help. In the past, I have been confused by who was who and had to refer back. I don't think it is a bad idea and may help

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    1. I read a lot and would really appreciate character lists. It would be great to have one right at the beginning or end for fast reference. I read fast and have a bad memory!
      Depends on the genre, too. Fantasy has tons of characters and suspense/thriller/mystery do too.
      Have a great day!
      Marla

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  2. My books have four or less main characters, so I don't need a list.
    But if a novel had eight or more main characters a list would be helpful.

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    1. You DON'T need a list! I'm impressed. I would feel terribly restricted with only four characters. But it would be so nice to be able to only have four to keep straight, myself!
      Have a nice Sunday, Dave,
      Marla

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  3. Thank you for reminding us of these. I remember reading books with character lists and had forgotten about them. I have recently read several books that could have used these.

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    1. I've read many books that could use them, too. Sometimes, even if you have to put the book down for a few days, it would be nice to have one.
      I have heard from a few people that are doing them, so maybe they are making a comeback!
      Have a great weekend,
      Marla

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  4. As an author, I put a Cast of Characters at the very end of my books for easy reference. As the story evolves through three novels, and characters are reincarnated into different roles, my readers appreciate the table reminding them that River God becomes Black Falcon 300 years later and finally the Red Viper. As a reader, I loved the list of characters found in many Russian novels.

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    1. I'm with you, Sandra. I love character lists. It sounds like they work really well with your books.I plan on having one in my latest suspense book because I've sometimes been accused of having too many characters!
      Have a great holiday weekend,
      Marla

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  5. I don't recall reading a book with a list. I wish my writing program had such a feature. I'd like stickies or tabs or something I could use instead of taping paper to the edge of the monitor. I'll look for those lists in the back. Interesting stuff.

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    1. Oh, you use stickies on your monitor, too? Sure is handy, but you have to remember to take off the old ones!
      Have a happy fourth,
      Marla

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  6. I love this post because I agree with you...I love character lists! :) I recently coauthored Hollywood's Chosen; and we used a character list. Check us out at http://larry-vaughn.com/.

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    1. I like them. Too often I'm reading a book, and a character enters that I realize is not a new character and I blank out on who it is. If I don't feel like paging back to find out, which takes a lot of time, I have to keep going and hope that something finally tweaks my memory.
      Thanks for stopping in,
      Marla

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