As I said in my last post, I recently put down a book in favour of a library book which came. Today, I want to go more in-depth about why I put it down.
Simply, I found that I was really confused by what was happening. Every time I picked the book up to read it I didn’t follow what was happening. Thinking about it for this post, I’ve decided it was because of the influx of characters introduced in the first few chapters.
This book is part of a large series, so it makes sense that there will be a large cast of characters already established. But the author has introduced so many characters all at once, a mix of main characters and supporting characters. It was nearly impossible to know which were the main protagonists, and which were only background characters.
Making it even more difficult was the character names. I counted three characters whose names started with a B, and all were introduced within the first few pages. While they weren’t all present in the same room at the same time, the protagonist thought about, and referred to them all in the same scene. It was really hard trying to figure out who each character was, their role in the story, and their relationship to the protagonist.
In the end, I gave up trying to read it after 50 pages. I might have gone on further had my library book not arrived, but I doubt I would have made it to page 100. That said, the author is a big name, so it’s likely that in the future I’ll have another go at her books.
What can we learn from this? For a start, character names should all be different! I don’t want Ben, Beth, and Barry! Mix it up, and give me Sam, Harriet, and Martin. Secondly, make their relationships to each other understood from the start. Make it clear that Sam and Harriet are lovers, and that Martin and Sam are best friends from high school. Finally, slowly introduce the characters into the book. Show Sam and Harriet together in chapter one, but don’t show Sam and Martin until chapter two if possible.
For the comments, have you ever read a book with too many characters? Do you have anything to add?