Tomorrow I'll answer Stephanie's question from Monday's post, but I got another idea for today's post and I wanted to touch on that.
There are several bits of prominent writing advice floating around the internet -- "show, don't tell," "eliminate unneeded prepositional phrases," "AVOID ADVERBS," "condense your cast of characters" ...
Your "cast" is the number of named characters in your book, i.e. Steve the bartender counts, but the third spearcarrier from the left does not. Your main character, your villain, and every other character important enough to be given a name should be counted in your cast.
Sometimes, we write characters as a need for a different person comes up. In CALLARION AT NIGHT, I name four of the soldiers in the Lord Premier's Gendarmes (points if you guess where I stole the organization from) -- one is the Premier's nephew, one appears three times, and two are only in one scene (the scene from Chapter Two that I've posted here).
Now, these four soldiers all serve different purposes in the narrative. However, and I might actually do this, the two soldiers that are named in only one scene could easily be replaced by any of the other soldier/villain-allied characters without much of a difference in the narrative. This is what I mean by condensing your characters. If there is a way to take Steve the bartender and Jackie the waitress and make them the same person in the text (named Stevckie -- not really), then you end up with a stronger side character. The purposes of the two characters haven't changed, mind you. What you've instead done is heightened Steve's (or Jackie's) purpose to make it more poignant.
This doesn't mean that having one-off characters is a bad thing, though. Sometimes you need them because of a location change/time change/whatever. In that case, by all means keep Steve the bartender and Jackie the waitress as two separate people in bars on different sides of the city. But if you can rewrite to shrink the cast by any stretch of the imagination, it has the real potential to simplify both your life as the writer and your story as a whole.
And how can that be a bad thing?