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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Writing a Series – How do you remain true to your characters?

When you write, do you prefer to write a standalone novel, or one that leads to more starring those same characters? ask Melanie Robertson- King.

The advantage of a standalone book (single title as it’s also referred to) is that when you’re finished with it, you’re done. You can say goodbye to those characters and locations and move on to new people and places.

But a series of books involving the same characters, era, and location(s) is completely different. You have to maintain continuity with your previous tomes with the setting, your characters’ mannerisms, speech and any other idiosyncrasies they might have.
My novel, A Shadow in the Past, is the first in a series although at this point, I’m not sure over how many books it will span. Two definitely. More than that? I don’t know.

I have in-depth character descriptions for my main characters and not so detailed ones of my supporting ones. When I start working with them again, I feel like I’ve never been away… but am I being true to them as I write the next chapter in their lives?

Are they speaking the way they did in previous books, using the same expressions, the same body language? Or have I thrown them into a mix-master and come up with a composite of a number of characters instead of the single character from earlier books.

One way I’ve tried to ensure that my characters remain true to their previous versions of themselves is to pull out the manuscript for the earlier book and search for a few passages where that particular person plays a substantial role and highlight the text. Then go back to my work in progress and see if I’m on track or if I’m totally derailed.

How do you deal with keeping your characters true in subsequent works?

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  1. I usually do a brief biography and description at the start of writing, and then as I add more to the description etc in the book, I copy and paste that section on to the end of my biograpy, so I don't have to go hunting for it to check details.

  2. Thanks for this post, Melanie.

    As for your question, my characters live inside me. When I write something they don't like, they get angry and don't let me sleep. That's how I know I have to rewrite a scene. Now I have two different sets of characters all rumbling around. One set lives in the 19th century, the other set lives in Brooklyn which as we all know is beyond time, so it gets a bit noisy and crowded. I think I need a new pillow.

  3. Great post and an interesting topic. I like Chris's idea of a biography as I do forget details of past character traits - not so much main characters as secondary ones - and sometimes I even have to go back and check to make sure I get their names right!

    Janice xx