Sunday, 5 May 2019

Keeping track of your novel's characters

Writing a novel series is a balancing act

One of the most important and time consuming parts of writing a series of books based on one character can be keeping track of the continuity. I discovered that to my cost when writing my Detective In A Coma series of books featuring Detective Inspector Duncan Waddell and his comatose sidekick DC Stevie Campbell. 


Unfortunately I hadn't prepared myself for making sure I maintained contiuity in my characters, which often led to me having to trudge through hundreds of pages of text to make sure everything I'd written was consistent. 

I've just finished writing book 4 Vigilante City and with the weird way that publishing works book 2 in the series Cannibal City will be published soon.
Keeping track of the characters and what's happened to then in previous books is tricky when you don't have a system in place.  

That's why I have my trusty notebook - an old fashioned one you write in - with pages devoted to every one of my main characters and plenty of space left to add in new details.

I'm using a notebook because I can carry it around with me, but I also back up the details online using file storage service Dropbox, my email and I have it in a Word document. 

Hey, as writers we can never back up too much, can we?

What should be in your notebook

1. Name and brief outline of the character.
Include full name of your characters including middle names and nicknames if any, age, general appearance.

2. Personality - What are they like as a person?
What do they like, what interests them, how do they treat others, what makes them laugh, have they any phobias/hang ups, are they dour or do that have a good sense of humour etc...

3. Personal details - are they married, divorced or single, do they have kids (if so what ages are they?), do they cheat on their partner, do they have any health problems etc...

4. Major events they've gone through. This would usually be things that happened to them in your books or that you've referenced in your books. 
For example, my sidekick detective DI Waddell has been able to have two-way conversations with his best pal and colleague Stevie Campbell, but nobody else can hear him. I had to establish in my notes when Stevie first spoke to him.

It might seem like you're spending too much time doing this, but trust me, it will turn out to be a major timesaver later on when you're not having to trawl through hundreds of pages of text just to find out what colour of hair a character has.

Tip - Have a photo of each character - some writers find it easier if they have a photograph of how their characters look pasted into a notebook, or pinned to a noticeboard on the wall or on their computer desktop. 

It can be a picture of anyone including of a celebrity or a generic photo cut out of a magazine.

If you find yourself losing your character you can look at it and it might put you back on track.