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In my story, there are two characters: a schoolgirl and a strange person with a creepy mask who gives her a tour in an art museum at night. Well, actually there is a third character; the boyfriend of the girl, but he only answers the phone at the beginning to tell her that he will come later (but never does), and she talks about him all throughout the novel.

Will this short novel (approximately 200 pages) be boring to my readers because it only has two characters, and because the whole novel is set in that art museum? Will it be better if there are more? Or should I just stick with the plot without caring about that?

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"Waiting for Godot" has 2 characters, one scene, and very little action. It is also an exceptionally good play. It can be done, and can be phenomenal when it works. – Schroedingers Cat Jun 13 '12 at 13:02
It's about quality, not quantity. – Tannalein Dec 28 '12 at 23:40
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Use as many characters you need. Don't add extra characters unless they relate to the story.

The Old Man and the Sea only had two characters (three if you include the marlin).

However, remember that these individuals will know of other people.

While they may not appear in the novel directly, they will have an influence on them.

The Old Man and the Sea mentioned three other characters that never appeared directly, but we know of them through Santiago and Manolin.

Edit: Also, just to add, even though things take place in a museum, a museum consists of many different rooms and places, so although it's one location, it contains many different locations, too. Even then, having only one location is not necessarily a bad thing (think of the film "Alien", for example, where the majority of the film takes place on one space ship). If you story calls for one location, then stick with it.

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I once read a book with a cast of thousands and an epic sweep that covered centuries of mythical action, bloody wars, magical happenings and whatnot.

I read about four chapters and gave up because:

  • The characters were lame.
  • The dialogue was stilted.
  • The plot was generic.
  • The infodumps were deep, long and seemingly without relevance.

I read another story about a man dreaming he was climbing to the top of a mountain, where he promptly fell off. That's about all there was to it.

It gripped me from beginning to end.

Anything's possible. It's the story that matters.

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A million word novel can be boring and a 500 word story can be gripping. What matters is that it is written well and has a worthwhile story to tell.

Heart of Darkness is just 25-30 pages and almost universally appears on any Top 100 literature or novel list. It has plenty of characters and locations, but its power comes from who those characters are, and how they are written, not from the fact that it is set in the jungle.

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OK, I think I'm going to read that one. – Alexandro Chen Apr 19 '11 at 17:36
...I have to say, as much as I love and respect HoD, I will NEVER willingly read it again, I don't think. Understanding it gave me brain strain... That said, I emphatically recommend it! :) – kitukwfyer Apr 20 '11 at 12:26

Why would you add extra anything if your plot doesn't need it? Most writers have trouble taking things out, and you're trying to stuff things in? We should all have such troubles. ;)

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Remember there is always a journey in a story. Many writers will call this the "plot", but the two don't co-incide compeletely.

You've put your two characters on a journey with each other through the museum. What will they encounter about themselves and each other? What will they learn? How will they react? How will they change? How will their reactions change? What about the journey you take the reader on?

Remember, too, that an art museum has all the artwork as additional "characters". If one character is giving a tour, then the art should play an important role in what happens. Or at least, that's what the tour guide is going to clearly expect.

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No. It will not be boring because of your character count or your locations. Neither of these have strict requirements to satisfy before you break through the excitement barrier. The quality of dialogue, characters, locations and events will have a larger impact on excitement than the mere count of those things.

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The only real answer is whether or not you can write a 200 page story in a museum that is interesting. Those circumstances don't necessarily disqualify you but, I personally would have trouble with a plot that stays there for 200 pages.

That above statement doesn't really mean anything to your circumstance.

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I haven't read your story so I have no idea if it's boring or not. But the number of characters of itself has little to do with it. You cannot measure how interesting a story is just by counting the number of characters, multiplying by the number of different settings, and adding the square root of the elapsed time. That's not how it works.

I wouldn't look for arbitrary ways to make the story more interesting: use characters and settings that fit the story you want to tell. If at some point in writing you conclude that you cannot develop your characters the way you want without introducing an interaction with a new character, then bring in a new character. But likewise I'd say that if a story has many characters and one or more don't contribute anything distinctive, drop them. Etc.

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