Several years ago I was teaching fifth grade reading. We were studying a book call Quest For Courage, a novel about an Indian boy who is sent out to find his courage. He rode away from the tribe, over many mountains, to find a herd of wild horses. The main character was the thirteen year old Indian. The minor characters were the horses which included Medicine Hat Stallion, Black Mare, Medicine Hat colt,White Stallion and the rest of the herd.
My students were completely confused. They were unable to keep the horses straight in their minds. Over the weekend, I had a revelation. I'd make horse paper dolls to represent the different horses. So I cut out a large spotted horse, a small spotted horse, a black horse, a brown horse and a white horse. On Monday I 'introduced' the horses to the classes. Everything went great until 6th period. I went through my usual introduction. As I introduced each horse, I laid it down on my desk. I did the same thing 6th period, putting each horse down until I was left with the black horse and white horse in my hand. I heard a student say, "I wonder which one is the black mare." Another student said, "Duh?" Now that was not allowed in my class. We did not put other students down, but that one was deserved.
If your students are becoming confused about characters, consider paper dolls to represent each character.