Category Archives: Novels action adventure

How many characters spoil the plot?

Last night I saw Prometheus, the supposed prequel to 1973 film Alien, with Sigourney Weaver. Frankly, the plot didn’t impress me, and the film suffered from what I suspect is a common fault in films and books: too many “main” characters. It becomes difficult to emotionally identify with any one character. I felt no real identification with any of the on-screen characters in Prometheus. When I think back over some of the best films, there are usually one or two, maybe three main characters, but that’s the limit. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoohas Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.

Poster for 1984, from Wikipedia

Catch 22 has Captain Yossarian. We see the other characters, but none of them gets even remotely equal time with Yossarian.  George Orwell’s 1984 has Winston Smith. As best I recall we never see his lover, Julia, nor his torturer, O’Brien, without him. As a result, we are totally invested in Winston. Even though Harry Potter has Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, and Snape, we know who the main character is. (And Rowling had the advantage of seven books over which to tell her story.) Steel Magnolias had half a dozen, but we are mostly invested in Julia Roberts, as Shelby, who is diabetic, not expected to be able to carry a child, and becomes pregnant anyway. She needs a kidney transplant, gets it, it fails, and finally she has to be disconnected from life support.

In order for me to be invested in the fate of a character, they need to be centre-front. They need to have a problem I can identify with.

So what about you? Do too many characters make it hard for you to get invested in a film or book? What’s your limit? what do you prefer? when you think about the films you thought were “best” films, how many lead characters did they have?

(On an unrelated topic, Piper Bayard and Holmes have an interesting article on spy ships between WWI and WWII. at Piperbayard.wordpress.com)

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My novel ‘Fire Damage,’ an action thriller, is available on Amazon Kindle, at:
The novel is based on the Japanese religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, which released Sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system in the 1990s. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app to read it on your computer or phone from here:
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Knowing you could have prevented your sister’s death.

Today I released my new novel, Fire Damage, on Amazon Kindle.

How do you get over knowing that you could have prevented your sister’s murder?
Cameron Oakwood is an intelligence analyst whose sister and nephew were killed in a car bomb explosion outside a politician’s office.  Cameron knew terrorists had made death threats against the politician. His family blames him for not warning his sister to stay away from that building. The case was never solved. Three years after her death, his family has cut him off. Consumed by guilt, Cameron obsessively re-reads documents he has hoarded to do with the case. He is becoming addicted to alcohol and tranquilizers.
Cameron is assigned to work with FBI agent Jodie Finch on threat by a Japanese doomsday cult to release a genetically engineered virus at an international sporting event in Melbourne, Australia. She is attracted to his intelligence, his humor and his honesty, but she worries about his addictions and his obsessions about his sister’s death. She wonders if he is ready for a new relationship.
As they work together, the terrorists take hostages to a remote country house in the path of oncoming forest fires. Cameron and Jodie have only hours left to prevent the biological attack. As they  race to rescue the hostages, they make a stunning discovery about the identity of the bomb maker who killed Cameron’s sister. But they make their discovery in the most frightening possible circumstances, when all their lives hang in the balance.

If you’d like to visit the site, and possibly buy a copy, you can see it here.  If you want to down the kindle app to read kindle books on your computer, you can get it here.