So you’ve got a novel you’ve started on, and it’s got tons of characters.
You want the reader to know as much as they possibly can about what’s going on, so instead of having everything happening in front of one protagonist, you’ve split up the action between five different characters that can more realistically witness more of the story and introduce more of the supporting cast across different settings.
Besides, you can avoid that strange tendency for fictional characters to have incredibly small social circles.
Hold up. Slow down a second.
Having a large cast of characters can be a great technique sometimes; it can be used to develop and display a wide range of points of view.
Complex stories aren’t bad, especially if you’ve got the talent to pull it off. But having a huge cast of characters, especially if you have different points of view throughout the story, can also be quite a bit confusing. Executed poorly, you’ll only end up with bewildered readers who wished they’d picked up something simpler.
For instance, I’m pretty bad with names (in both real life and in reading). Throw me a couple of names every now and then, I’ll get by. But a pile of names right out the gate? I’ll just give up on learning any new monikers after a while, and probably get hopelessly lost down the road.
But even not considering easily-confused readers like myself, there are tons of issues that go along with a huge cast. Having tons of characters can’t be justified if they’re not relevant to the story in one or another.
So now that you’ve got a huge cast, you’ve got to work out a way to make sure they all stay relevant and that the reader has any reason to remember these characters exist at all, other than maybe giving them dramatic deaths. If you’re a talented enough author you can do just that, but all around it might be easier to start with a reduced cast.
A limited cast gives you room to develop the characters that are important to the story you want to tell. It might be easier to stick to that rather than populate the book with characters that you and the readers are going to have trouble keeping up with.