How many characters should inhabit your novel?

How many characters should your populate your story?

In a 2015 workshop sponsored by Houston Writers House, local literary luminary Ann Weisgarber warned to not have more than five characters appear in the first three pages of a story (short story, memoir, or novel). We did not take up the related question, what’s the maximum number a novel can support and how much does it depend on the number of words or pages?

That workshop came to mind recently while reading Julian Symons, A Criminal Comedy. I’d been working my way through the winners of the Edgar Award for best crime fiction novel and Symons was on the list, not for this novel, but for his The Progress of a Crime, which I enjoyed reading a few months back. I stumbled upon A Criminal Comedy and decided to give it a try. Continue reading “How many characters should inhabit your novel?”