RARA-AVIS: Survey. Final results. Reason for it

From: Jose Latour ( alaiep@artsoft.cult.cu)
Date: 21 Jan 2002


Total: 22 responses

12 respondents chose a)
  3 chose b)
  2 chose c)
  4 chose two categories: a) and b)
  1 didn't have a preference.

Each member will reach its own conclusions.

As to why I asked. A masterpiece is a masterpiece no matter how many characters it has; the opposite is true as well.

Nonetheless, as a reader I have a problem with numerous secondary characters. Last week I abandoned a novel on page 200 because it had so many I had to keep going back every couple of pages. After my anger fizzled, I reached for the copy and started counting. Two protagonists and 34 secondary characters, of which some had two, even three identities. For good measure, gossip about fifteen or so movie celebrities was incorporated into the story. The irony of it was that the plot was interesting and the literary quality above average. But from this author I won't be reading another book.

Most writers I know admit they are not average readers, though. After penning my first book part of the joy of reading evaporated: I was scrutinizing the text all the time. When I realized I was totally immersed in the story, unaware of language and characterization, I knew the book was good. In this process, I got the impression that secondary characters frequently reflect the author's inability to escape the net he has weaved. His protagonist has no credible way to find out to whom does a car belong, so he needs a pal at the department of registration of motor vehicles; to access police files he's friendly with a cop; he also knows a couple of hoodlums to tap underworld sources. Nurses, journalists, court clerks, stipteasers. You get the idea. When the protagonist doesn't have a friend in the right place, he can wheedle or browbeat a perfect stranger into telling him all he needs to know.

Secondary characters, however, can be extremely useful. Besides providing information, they can tipify social situations, make character judgements, provide useful criticism, crack a good joke. But they must be used sparingly, something I hope I will be able to keep in mind in the future.

Thanks to all of you,

Josť††

  

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