Of all my WIPs, my Civil War series A Time For Everything probably has the largest amount of characters: 15-16-ish?
To be fair, 3 of those POVs die. BUT I AIN’T SAYIN’ WHO AND I AIN’T SAYIN’ WHEN. Also, they’re all going to be split between protagonist/deuteragonist.
Large amounts of characters can either help or hinder a story. In cases like Lord of the Rings (which I still haven’t read so I’m going off the movies), there are nine whole members of the Fellowship – then there’s side characters like Bilbo, Arwen, Elrond, Faramir, Eowyn, Theoden, Saruman, Gollum…you get the gist.
Yet, you don’t feel overwhelmed because of how the handling of such a large amount of characters is structured.
On the other hand, there are times where a story is hindered by a large amount of characters. Unfortunately, I can’t think of an example at the moment.
Then there are stories which can do well with a large amount of characters but the way it’s handled can either make or break the story.
For example, head-hopping. If you have a large amount of characters, head-hopping is not the solution. Before you sit down to write a scene, pick the character whose head you’re going to be in. Write. Then when it’s time to jump into another character’s head, do a section or chapter break. This way, it’s more organized and readers will be able to follow the story a lil better.
It might also be a good idea to split the story into sections. Again, though I haven’t read it, I do know that LotR has each main book split into two ‘smaller’ books.
(I really gotta read it)
The way I’ve structured the POVs in ATFW is by splitting it into two main halves, with the first half being split into seven smaller sections. Each section is about one of the families and their order of appearance is ordered like this: Adams, Matthews, Lanes, Taylors, Lafayettes, Rosses, and Rhodes.
As of now, each section is only three chapters, though I might change it to five.
In regards to the second section, I honestly don’t know how to structure the smaller sections yet, especially since two of the men, Zach Adams and Vin Rhodes end up in the same unit (bc Virginia) and therefore meet. The larger sections will be a timeframe of about 2-3 months each, and there’ll be an epilogue taking place in January, thereby setting up the next book.
Okay so admittedly this post is pretty sparse. Though at the same time, I’ve never actually written something with this many characters before. So maybe it’ll be more of a learning curve documented through blog posts.