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Why announce new characters?

Harold Wilson

I keep seeing things like this:

The following new character appears in this and later chapters:

Obviously, it's on purpose. Equally obviously, no real novel contains this kind of jetsam. So I'm curious: why do this?

Is there some school of writing or "how to convert your novel to a TV script" that recommends this as some kind of development step?

It's not exclusive to a single author, so it isn't just an irritating personal habit. It must be part of some vast conspiracy, but I admit I don't know what the motivation is...

Ernest Bywater

I must be lucky, I've not seen it in any story I've read on SoL - yet, knock on wood - hard.


I have noticed that different methods are used by some writers. Some will have a cast of characters section either as a preface or afterwards chapter. Same function although the preface or afterwards chapter gives no indication as to when they appear in a story. The method you mention I have seen done by at least one writer. He is a good story teller but like everyone else he has his little habits. I can treat that method the same as any other method used. Sometimes I check those lists other times I skip them.


I did a quick search on 'New Characters'. The only SOL authors I found who introduce new characters at the start of a chapter are VeeKay and Uncle Jim.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking


Uncle Jim

When Uncle Jim does it, I don't find it intrusive and occasionally it's helpful. But his stories are tightly written, with few main characters, and would probably be fine without it.


Replies:   REP

@awnlee jawking

I don't find it intrusive and occasionally it's helpful

I tend to agree with you. Although his Magic Ink Universe contains an extensive list of characters and a GOOD cast list would be very helpful in keeping the characters straight as to their involvement in his prior stories.

Unfortunately, his character descriptions are generally limited to the character's physical attributes and often identify who they are related to. This does very little in helping me place them in their roles in other stories.

Personally, I find Uncle Jim's list of characters intrusive, but that is just me. He presents a list of characters from prior stories at the start of a new story. He then presents abbreviated lists of the characters who have roles in the subsequent chapters and he identifies characters introduced during the chapter at that time. If I recall, he also presents the original character list plus the new additions periodically in long stories. The short new character announcements are not a big deal in regard to finding where the chapter's text begins, but I find it irritating to have to page down several screens to find the start of the chapter. Furthermore, when I read a list of 8 or more new characters plus prior characters at the start of a new chapter, I've forgotten their names, height, hair and eye colors, bust size for female characters, etc. before I've even read the first paragraph of the chapter; the details are one jumbled mix of characteristics in my memory. Since I find reading these character lists to be a waste of my time, I make it a habit to just skip over the lists and go straight to the first paragraph of the chapter.

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