The Five-body problem
There’s a scene toward the beginning of Amadeus where the Emperor is taking Mozart to task for writing an opera based on a somewhat controversial text of the day, aka “The Marriage of Figaro.” Mozart deflects the Emperor’s concern by engaging him musically, explaining how the opening scene features characters walking in, each singing a separate figure, and he asks the Emperor how many characters he thinks Mozart can handle this way. The Emperor guesses low, of course. Mozart indicated he has seven voices singing seven different things by the end of the scene, and that it all works.
Good for you, Wolfgang. Myself, I’m pushing it with five in a scene right now, though to be fair to myself three of them are actually disembodied consciousness possessing the bodies of others, so that’s not a firm five. Still, moving the conversation around naturally while they all do the things the characters should be doing and simultaneously keeping the plot in motion? It’s a challenge and I’m not afraid to admit it. I can’t plow through it like I can two-person dialog. But we’re also at maximum character density. They start peeling off at this point. Whew.
In the mid-65’s, word-count wise. Thinking 75k as final count when I’m done, 80k at the outside. End of February is possible, but March is more likely.