I have many characters in my WiP - some main, some supporting. Some appear and disappear within a paragraph. But I remind myself constantly each of them must be there for a reason.
I'm working to make the main characters multi-faceted, even the unlikeable ones. In this latest round of editing, I'm trying to dig deeper, to discover why they do the things they do and why they view the world the way they do. Some characters, honestly, I like better than others - and some, honestly, are easier to write than others.
I'm taking a hard look at my supporting characters asking myself, do they really need to be here, or are they still here because I'm used to having them around? Is the story better with them, or (gulp) without them? I may turn into a character executioner.
In every book I admire, the author has done a wonderful job making the characters real and I want to be able to do that too. (please, please, please let me be good enough) I'm determined to write a book populated with real people, not cardboard cutouts.
It's an odd balancing act: trying to respect each of them and at the same time looking at each with disrespect as I ask myself do they serve their purpose? Has their purpose changed? Do each of my main characters evolve during the plot so that they're at a different place at the end then they were at the beginning? A character that doesn't grow is dull. I don't want dull characters.
Plain, one layer cake can be good - but a multi-layered cake filled with yummy surprises is better. It just takes longer to bake.