There are various pros, cons, and opinions with regard to how many characters to include in your story. I’m not going to go into that argument here, especially since I’m probably unqualified to do so in a fair and unbiased manner. By stories tend to be highly populated, though they will all serve a purpose somewhere along the plot line.
This tip is about how to manage a huge cast of characters, assuming they’re justified being there in the first place. Major characters who appear regularly throughout the story are well-established enough that reminding your reader who they are will be annoying. However, they may need a reminder about the minor ones from time to time so they can keep them straight. Placing them in a scene that fits their role sometimes will suffice. Otherwise a word of two about who they are (such as “police captain, doctor, or grocery clerk so-and-so, blah blah blah”) is helpful.
Having a dramatis personae is also highly recommended, though they are more difficult to refer back to in an ebook..
Some stories can’t be told without a boatload of characters. My current WIP is definitely in that category. There are so many things going on, to tell the story requires a huge cast. I’ve read similar novels where it sometimes got really difficult to remember who certain people were, unless they were somehow in context. In other words, some people relate to certain scenes and plot angles that make them stand out.
One way or the other, if your book is loaded with characters, one way you can do your readers a tremendous favor is to provide a dramatis personae. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a list of who and what each person is in the beginning of the story; a cast of characters, if you will. This is particularly useful if there is some blood relationship between your characters, which may be difficult to keep track of for the reader.
When you have a huge cast of characters, remind readers who the minor ones are from time to time so they can keep them straight. Placing them in a scene that fits their role sometimes will suffice. Having a dramatis personae is also highly recommended. This is a list of the people in your story and who they are. In highly populated novels these are greatly appreciated by readers, especially those without steel-trap memories or who may take a little longer to finish a book.
If your book is published in both print and electronic form, make sure the character list is included in the e-book’s table of contents so readers can refer back to it more easily.
If your book is loaded with characters, do your readers a favor by providing a dramatis personae, a fancy Latin term for a list of who and what the players are which you provide in the beginning of the story; a cast of characters, if you will.
Not all readers have a steel-trap memory that can keep track of too many people. This is another thing that can throw a reader out of a story, wondering or trying to remember who someone is. For ebooks, make sure this list is included in your table of contents so readers can get back to it easily for reference.