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Character Consolidation



Tl;dr version: All things being equal, fewer characters is better than more characters.

If you can use a character that's already been introduced, you should.

SPOILERS for: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Beerfest, Usual Suspects, The Creator

Each character should represent a different point-of-view on events in the story while having unique tactics, goals, and challenges. This will be easier to accomplish with fewer characters in agreement. Redundant characters should be recognized and avoided.

The concept of Character Consolidation was demonstrated really well in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," when Peter Parker meets MJ's dad-- an excellent little Act Two twist. While a girlfriend's father could represented a secondary antagonist to Spider-Man, the writers had her dad and the primary villain (I forget his name, but Michael Keaton) be one and the same.

As a more meta-example, in the comedy "Beerfest," one of the main characters is surprisingly killed off, but as the funeral we get introduced to the deceased's twin brother. Obviously played by the same actor, the 'brother' fills the example same hole as before and has a lampshade line of, "I'm Landfill's twin brother Gill. I feel like I know you guys so well already, so we won't have that awkward get to know you phase. In fact, you can just call me Landfill." While the joke is pointedly lazy, it also made the story easy to track for audiences.

Of course, Character Consolidation can also work against the storyteller when the audience can get a sense that a new character will not be introduced-- that someone foreshadowed has already been an established character. In the 2023 sci-fi film "The Creator," we're told the team is looking for Nimrata when they close in on (and lose) Gemma Chan's character. After 30, 40, or 60 minutes of runtime searching for Nimrata, we are explicitly told the painfully clear: she was Nimrata the whole time.

So, you know, not every rule works every time. Or, more generously, ever rule-breaker is actually just following a different rule.

I'm all for making new friends and expanding my social circle, but when writing and telling your story, be merciful on the audience.


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