…and a cast of thousands!
Back when I was very active in ElfQuest fandom (I think it was the early Triassic age), I wrote a lot of stories for several fanzines, and one of the things I became a bit (in)famous for were stories featuring a whole lot of characters. I would squeeze in dozens, sometimes scores of characters into relatively short stories.
It wasn’t something I set out to do. It was just the way my brain worked. If something was happening in the little fictional tribe or village or whatever that we had created, the way that something affected each of the characters in said setting just seemed natural. I didn’t include every one of the reactions that occured to me, just the ones that moved the story along, or would naturally play out in a particular scene I needed for the plot.
It wasn’t hard. It just felt right.
I tend, therefore, to be fond of books, movies, and TV shows with ensemble casts. I love watching the way all those characters interact. I love seeing how the consequences of even the smallest incidents can sometimes ripple out to a wide communtiy.
I still write that way. The book I’m currently most busy writing has at least three major protagonists (and a secret fourth), at least (counting quickly on my fingers) twenty-six supporting characters with multiple lines of dialogue, four primary antagonists, and about eleven minor antogonists/minions.
It may seem an impossible number, but then I pull some books from my shelf by some quite successful authors, and when I count all the characters, I get very similar numbers. So clearly there are readers out there besides me who can follow this sort of thing.
I may wind up trimming some sub-plots. I certainly did in the last one. I even managed to get at least one funny short story/spin-off out of it. But while I’m in the middle of writing the first draft, I have to just point all the characters toward the finish and shout, “Charge!”