Rosalind Minett

The characterful writer

PSYCHOLOGICAL SERIES – some problems

How to keep track of everyone’s story

Who is he? Who else is there? And Who is to be forgiven?
AND NOW THE 4TH BOOK. Who should tell what to whom?

This series begins with one character, Terry, and his awkward wife but then he spots his double… and his life unfolds into unbelievable complexity.

FROM THIS POINT ON THE WRITER NEEDS TO KEEP TRACK OF THE EVENTS AND THE CONSEQUENCES TO LAY OUT THE SERIES CONTENT.

Terry’s excitement in finding the twin from whom he was separated in infancy sparks him to think about other possible family. He has found one person but who else might be out there? Better try to seek them out…but not everyone is golden!

Then it isn’t one person, but more, and more, and now he’s opened a Pandora’s Box that can’t be shut. You can’t un-know what you’ve seen. He must face the consequences, over and over and over again, as one contact after another is affected. Furthermore, he must re-assess who he is, himself.

Writing the series requires a way of keeping track of discoveries and the psychological consequences. For instance, a change in the protagonist’s behaviour as result of knowing new information about other characters.

As my series goes on, it is not just the main character whose story must be documented, the details accurate from one book to the next, but all the other characters who are making and filling out Terry’s story. I found that by Part 4, Why Should They Know? every chapter was taking me so long, not in the initial writing, but in the checking back over the previous books. It really was the case of making sure I knew who knew what! I couldn’t have a character surprised by information if s/he had discovered it or been told it in a previous book.

Several times I had to rearrange chapters to make sure the who knew what was correct. Altogether, although I had planned the ending very early in the writing of this book, the checking and re-ordering and re-writing as well as the new events, not previously planned, meant the book has taken me over a year to write.

Yes, I am a pantser, but even pantsers make notes or use other techniques to keep track of their narrative. Many more organized writers use a series bible where each character’s individual history and characteristics is listed, as well as the events and their sequence. My most useful tip is a simple time line. It begins with the birth of the oldest character and ends with the culmination of the narrative. If the series continues at a later date, the timeline is extended to allow for the new events but all the existing ones are solidly in place.

That’s fine, very useful, but it does not allow for the detail of who said what, who knew what and when. It’s almost as if confirming my own words “Why Should I Know?”

Because continuity really matters. Get it wrong, and the tale’s credibility is lost.

There is software available if you need help. One example is Aeon’s timeline which is much more comprehensive than a simple date line with key events attached. It can link with Scrivener, every writer’s essential software.

Rosalind Minett

Author of historical trilogy, A Relative Invasion. Rosalind has an extensive background as a psychologist.

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