Daily Archives: May 19, 2011

Excuse me? What’s your name again?

As many of you know, my Dear Hubby recently purchased a hunting dog. Her name was Sage which the entire family hated. In fact, New Dog didn’t even know her own name, she despised it so much.

We opted for Bailey. It has a nice ring while I’m standing on the driveway shouting her name across the neighborhood. “Baaaaay-leeeee! Come home, you stupid little….”

Yeah, she has other names besides Bailey.

Dumb dog.
Pain in the rear.
I-hate-you-stupid-animal.
Socks.
Sock-eater.

But only after she does something stupid. Like feed her sock addiction. Seriously, socks are like crack to her. She ferrets them out and can’t swallow them fast enough. I won’t mention what we call her when said socks pass through the digestive system onto our lawn.

Somedays we refer to both our hunting dogs as a unit.

Blanco. Because her coat contrasts nicely to our geriatric lab’s who has since earned the Spanish name el Negro after the color of her fur.

And if we’re really giddy, we lump them together as Schwarz und Weiss. DH and I both took German in highschool. Ebony and Ivory.

And then there’s Kallie. Kallie Cakes. Tubby. Chubby. Tootsie (when she lays down her legs stick out like toothpicks shoved into a tootsie roll) and Grandma Kallie. Did I mention she’s old?

Anyone listening to our family on a given day would think we have 207 dogs. Way too many to squeeze into our home. Both for sanity’s sake and space.

Novels can be that way too. When too many characters wander the pages readers get confused and can lose interest.

As writers, we must assess who we introduce to our audience, when we do so and why. If we can combine characters to make our manuscripts less crowded, readers will notice when characters piddle on the floor. Otherwise, important details may simply get lost in the chaos of having too many dogs in the house.

How many characters are essential to a good story? At what point do readers get character-overload? How do you combine and/or eliminate minor or peripheral roles in your manuscript? What’s the trick to knowing who actually needs to reside within your novel?