Growing up, I was that kid who thought that every character in a story needs to have clearly established relatives, friends, pets, teachers, dentists, etc with their own names and relationships with the character. As you can guess, this quickly devolves into Caden’s play from Synechdoche, NY, where they attempt to make literally every character equally important, and the play goes from a tiny project to an absurd recreation of an entire city, with no end in sight.
“There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. Try to imagine that many people! None of those people is an extra. They’re all the leads of their own stories.”
“When are we gonna get an audience to read your stuff? It’s been 17 years.”
god i love this movie
Big comic industries can afford to create giant universes and expand everyone’s backstory however they like, but that’s hardly something to strive for when you’re just one single person who wants to get a comic done. You need to decide what characters you want the audience to focus on the most, and why. Then reread it again and consider if the answer to “why” is strong enough to waste your time on.
Now, there’s another problem I’ve encountered while trying to achieve a tight enough cast: making the world feel deserted. The characters constantly interact with the same important people, and it’s as if no one else exists or has the right to speak or act on their own. That seems to be another extreme, and boy do I love my extremes. Making the cast interact with background characters is perfectly fine, just don’t bother to give them a name or a backstory if they aren’t that important.
There’re quite a few characters that appeared mostly as my own OCs and could’ve been taken out with little to no problem at all. I’ve tried to fix that later by giving them important-ish stuff to do, but it only made the universe even more bloated.
Jinjur’s kids are totally useless and even make her seem a bit OOC (she changes her attitude enough to come back for Leslie, but I don’t think she’s ever dreamed of having that many children, even secretly). Their sole purpose was to make Leslie feel jealous and unwanted, as they best her in everything. I’m quite sure that’s still easily doable without them, though.
I think Sharky could be cut out, as well. He’s funny and weird and helps Jinjur escape from the jail and then dies to fuel more terrible irony; that’s it.
The twins aid the story here and there, but have no actual personalities and most of the time no one knows why they’re there.
Cedric is somewhere on the edge of being relevant, but is mostly as useless as his in-universe character is. He’s pretty good as Nick and Zee’s doofus sidekick and I kinda like the entire deal with his father and the Nomes, but aside from that, his current existence is quite pointless.
When I started writing some Motley Horde bits, I started coming up with an entire cast of quirky people who work there, but really, who gives a shit. Mrs. McDowell and the major are important enough, the rest can just randomly appear, say their quirky couple of lines and dive back into the abyss, with no bearing on our memory. The same goes for some of the robbers.
If we’re talking about characters who need more stuff to do, that would be Jackie, Godween and possibly Quadling and Munchkin. Jackie is just there to be cute and perky and die to fuel a man’s tragedy, and Godween only taunts Ferret with his existence.
If you also want examples of characters I’m perfectly fine with, that would be Nick, Shawn, Zee, Jinjur and Ruggedo. They have their own arcs, serve just enough purpose and end their stories without feeling like a waste of space. The Witches are close enough as well, but they’re too much of a tonal mess.