Character Lists

Today’s post, I must confess was triggered by this post on Character Lists in Marla Madison’s blog.

Do you remember books which listed the key characters in them? Here, for example, is a Character List from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

I liked this idea personally. I haven’t used this in any of my books but hope to do so in a work in progress project.  In addition to the points made by Marla in her blog, I believe the following are worth keeping in mind, if you plan to use a List of Characters:

  • Write enough about the character without giving away too much. This is particularly relevant when your stories have elements of suspense in them. As a reader you would hate to be told the story up front by scanning through the character list. It should add to the intrigue, not take away from it.
  • Keep it crisp. When time is at a premium, no one would want to wade through a lot of detail.
  • I wonder if character lists lend themselves more to works of non-fiction? What do you think?

Whilst on this topic, I totally like the idea of briefly introducing the character at the start of their part of the story. I used this technique because I remembered them from two books which I loved, “Bhowani Junction” by John Masters and “The Carpetbaggers” by Harold Robbins which had a similar approach. For example, in “It Can’t be You” my debut novel,  here is how a few of the characters were introduced: ” Introducing: Lt. Col. K.S.Belliappa, Indian Army (Retd), Male, Aged 54, Married, Partner in an Armaments Firm.”

Here is the introduction of his daughter, ” Introducing: Shefali Belliappa, Female, Aged 29, Unmarried, Creative Head in Bright Spark, an advertising agency.” Such introductions have a greater impact when the characters speak out their stories in the first person narrative.

What has been your experience both as a reader and as a writer?





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