When I’m reading manuscripts, or anything for that matter, I like things to be clear. It seems that the biggest enemy of clarity is attempting to do too much. Lately, my number one critique when reading manuscripts is that there’s too much going on. As Becca mentioned in her last blog post, too many details can really take away from a great manuscript. The same is true of too many characters. A manuscript with excessive amounts of character is an immediate red flag for me; if I can’t keep track of them all, I’m likely going to become confused and overwhelmed.
We all know how important character development is to a great novel. The main character needs to be fully fleshed out and at least somewhat likeable or relatable. After all, your reader will be hanging out with her for 200 pages! Secondary characters, on the other hand, are a bit different. Although these characters can be a significant part of a finished product, it’s important to remember that they aren’t meant to be protagonists. These characters have to take a bit of a backseat to the star of the show.
Too much background about less important characters can take away from the focus of a manuscript. Though it’s nice to get to know minor characters, the reader doesn’t need to know about every aspect of their lives. Plus, too much detail in secondary characters can lead to excessive storylines. If there are numerous characters and they all have their own things going on, it’s easy to overwhelm the reader with information. Be sure any secondary plotlines don’t take precedence over the main plot.
The important thing to remember when working on a manuscript is to make sure everything you write is important and necessary to the plot. As hard as it can be to eliminate a character you’ve grown attached to, sometimes you just have to do it! Cutting out some excess can really help to turn a good partial into a great one. Plus, you can always save those extra characters for your next novel!