After meandering about events, book review, and author interviews for a while, I decided to share some writing tips again. Recently, someone asked me about setting up a series. Sounds like a good segue for me to expound on my theories on series—pardon the alliteration. Readers, myself included, love series. We love seeing the initial characters evolve in the background as further books develop.
Usually, though, writers plan a series and incorporate one or two secondary characters who will make good heroes or heroines of a later book. I’ve done this with a series I’ve worked on featuring three brothers. This post is directed at others who want to write a planned series. Because characters and places will recur in two or more books, keep good records, known as a series bible (small print and no religious connotation) and contains everything about your setting and the people and places that occupy it. I even draw a map on a sheet of printer paper where I place businesses as I name them. A sheet of posterboard works even better if you’re planning a series where lots of buildings are involved.
I recently saw a great movie, except for one major error. Initially, the home in which the main characters were housed was described as "way outside town." Later, the hero and heroine jogged to town, then even later walked there. Okay, how far is “way outside town?” You don’t want your readers stopping to ponder questions like this. Be specific in your bible so there are no questions or misconceptions later. A writer I know once forgot the color eyes of a character on whom she wanted to base a book—three books after he was first mentioned. She pursuaded a fan to reread her books and locate the character’s initial description.
To prevent errors is not difficult—at least this type error. Keep a list of characters with minimal identifying points: hair color, eye color, height, build, job, and age in the first book. As your series progresses, everyone must age at the same rate. Have you read a book series in which a child suddenly pops up as a teen or adult when the primary characters have aged only a year or so? Keep things as credible as possible. I list not just the age, but the year of birth.
In short, a minimal effort at good records will prevent errors and headaches. We have enough of those in this volatile industry without creating our own, right? Happy writing!