Preventing Character Overload

We have a tendency to make many, many characters that the audience needs to know about before any story can actually take place.

How do you prevent characters being introduced too fast? How do you make sure that each character stays distinct even if they have similar personalities? And for comparison, what are some of the more effective ways of introducing casts of characters in a memorable but non-confusing fashion?


First of all, if there are many, many characters, there are probably too many. The more characters there are, the less we will be able to learn about them. They will just become dolls with different wigs on. So my first advice would be to decide between peripheral characters (of which you don’t need to learn much) and central characters, which you want the player to learn about in depth.

Chances are that by now you have a lot of central characters, so now it is time to delete and combine. There simply won’t be time for the MC to learn about a lot of people, because you, the author, has to sit and write all these scenes, and make them fit fluently into the story. If you have 100 000 words of character interaction, 4 main characters gets 25 000 each, but 10 only gets 10 000. So if you want to go deep, then you can’t go wide.

As for making the characters stay distinct… if they are too similar, why have two of them? That’s just a waste of space.


There’re a lot of ways on introducing a character. They can be as simple as your friend introduces you them, or as weird as this character runs to your face, put a big smiley grin on their face, and quickly runs away.

And keep in mind that the method you choose for the intro won’t necessarily define the char’s “centrality/peripherality”!
But of course, it’ll decide the attractiveness of the character.

:grimacing: :running_man:t4:


Okay, now I am back with a little more time to continue my post.

I think when it comes to introducing characters, the important thing is to have something to react to. That is, when you introduce them, let the player have an opportunity to talk to them or do something together with them. That way it is easier to remember them, and you can use the actions to help distinguish the character. Not too many characters at once either, then it easily becomes muddled.

It’s also helpful to think of a group/team of characters as a single character when it comes to things like this. When what you want to showcase is how they are working together as a group, and can use that to show their personalities.


Well, there’s really no need to introduce all the characters at the beginning of the game. It would probably be easier to space them out, making it so that the MC has never met the character before, and have the player get to know them as the MC does. Honestly, I’d say that having one or two characters that the MC already knows at the start of the game is enough (with the exception of their family, of course.)

So yeah… The first chapter of the game could introduce us to a couple of characters that the MC already knows, then the MC could meet two or three more characters in chapter two, then meet some more in chapter three. We don’t need to meet all the characters all at once, and the MC definitely doesn’t need to know all the characters before hand.

As for keeping characters distinct, even if they have similar personalities, well that’s easy… Don’t have characters with similar personalities. :yum:

Obviously, certain characters might have the same personality traits, but they could still have very different personalities. For instance, Bob and Rob might both be very kind, but Bob could be kind and extremely serious, whereas Rob might be kind and also fun and carefree. Also, Milly and Lilly might both be very intelligent, but Milly might be honest, with a strong sense of justice, and Lily might be cunning and manipulative. Basically, try to make sure that each character has at least one personality trait that is unique to them. If two characters have almost identical personalities, then one of them is essentially pointless, and might as well be cut from the game.

And one final suggestion… Try to make sure there aren’t two characters with very similar names. It might confuse people about which is which. :yum:


If you’re introducing several characters at once the best places would probably be a party or someone is presenting a lineup of suitors or something.

If you have 2 characters starting to sound the same maybe you ought to recheck what you’re doing with them.

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I’m quite fond of big ensemble casts, ones that might have several major characters with their own threads going on, so when it comes to my taste, I don’t think it’s always going to be necessary to consolidate or eliminate characters—within reason. More than several focused characters is likely to be too much to handle, but having more than a few gives you room for more variety, and allowing you to play with characters in a wider array of different circumstances.

To handle a larger ensemble, it is best if you can manage a more character-based style, where they’ll really stand out. Keeping them distinct is very much a necessity—and coming up with memorable and unique traits will stand in good stead, so the reader will remember “right, this is the guy who really likes spiders” or “this is the girl who wants to be a wrestler” or “that’s the person who wears the really fancy hats.” There’s all sorts of ways to make a character unique, and that makes it easier to keep track of them :grin:

I’d say, if you’re looking at choicescript ensembles specifically, Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven is the prime example, with a significant number of characters who all get development, but none of them really blur together. Some of them are more plot-crucial than others, certainly; you may want to think of which of your characters are the main basis of the plot, and who are more like optional side plots. You may also want to look at WiPs like @daydreamsincolor’s Keeper of the Sun and Moon, which has several different characters who have subplots and developed personalities of their own, and still stand out as unique, or at @ParrotWatcher’s Totem Force, which also has several characters of plot significance who have balanced roles in the plot and stay distinct from each other.

I’d also note that one advantage of a choicescript game is that you can work with optional sideplots a lot—the player might only get to know a limited number of the characters in any one playthrough, prioritizing whatever they most want to explore this time. That can help reduce the sense of an overwhelmingly large cast, and help the reader keep focus on their favorites. It does, I’ll admit, entail a lot of extra work for the author… large ensembles are like that :stuck_out_tongue:


It’s one of my smaller casts… :sweat_smile:

I certainly think that a large cast isn’t bad in and of itself, but it can be handled poorly… I’d say if you follow @Avery_Moore’s advice you ought to do well.

One thing you could try is to have a dramatis personae (or “character list” if you want to be pretentious :roll_eyes:) in the stats pages, like the aforementioned ZESH does, giving a basic description of the character and their plot role thus far, just to help th readers remember.


Expanding a little further… just bear in mind, all people are interesting. Some might be dreadful, but they’ll still have plenty of complexity to them. So this is something to think about even when writing minor characters, who might have very brief and little screentime… these people still have their own stories, and are still people, and if you can bring them just a little spark of characterization, your story will feel that much more real. A big cast will generally entail some people being in the background more, but if you think of them as having their own lives, it helps your world feel full.

Big casts can add a lot of appeal, too… there’s more range for variety, readers have more chances to find someone they particularly connect with, and it can lend more room for dynamics in the interactions and plots. Just look at how many conversations, on this forum and elsewhere, deal with large bodies of characters and the ways the readers react to different ones.

For distinctness, I’d also say, think about people whom you know… and maybe think about people you encounter on the forum. After all, this forum is text-based, so it’s a prime example of how to get to know people on a word-by-word basis. Consider what helps you remember who’s who—what sorts of traits stand out?

People can be fairly similar too, and have it still make sense for a story—you just need to be sure you bring out what makes them unique, as well. I mean, you may want to write about family, or friends, or people in a relationship, who are likely to have things in common. I guess, if I may use an example, @ParrotWatcher and I are fairly similar in a lot of ways, but we’d still be noticeably distinct, in a way where, if we were characters, it wouldn’t be redundant so much as complementary… and readers could keep us apart through things like, well, he’s British and I’m American, he’s more introverted than I am (not that I’m an extravert :thinking:), he’s more into superhero stuff, he dislikes bananas, etc… you can do exactly the same sort of thing with fictional characters :smile:

And I’d also say, maybe don’t introduce too many characters all at once—it’s a bit much to process. You can space them out a little :stuck_out_tongue:

Cute :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


No! Heresy!
Heretic must be burned at stake!

:fire: :banana: :fire:

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No, I won’t let you burn him! :sob: *dashes in front of the fire to save him*

After all, it just means more bananas for me :yum::banana:

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Aah… makes sense brother.
More banana, more luck, more blessing.
:sparkles: :banana: :sparkles: