Monday, March 30, 2009


How many lead characters do you need? From observation, the best books/films have one, three or seven.

Seven may seem like a lot, but in a long-running TV show it gives more variety to the episodes. In a long book it gives some reign to secondary characters and keeps the reader hooked.

One or three characters, however, seem to be the most common: Think Kirk/Spock/McCoy (or Picard/Riker/Data if you're too young), or there's Rincewind/Twoflower/'Wooden Box with lots of legs' in the first two Discworld novels.

In one of the books I've read recently, there was the eponymous hero, Space Captain Smith, his female pilot, Carveth, and his best friend, Suruk, whilst Iain Banks tends to use three characters in his books.

In a group of three, one character tends to dominate, but the other two have a life of their own, adding some complexity and further interest to the plot.

It's not a hard and fast rule, but it does tend to occur more frequently than any other grouping.


Justus M. Bowman said...

I definitely have more than one lead character in my novel, but I don't know the exact count.

Cindy said...

I never really noticed that before, except in films, as you said. I am a big fan of 2 or 4. Must like evens over odds, at least in writing.