Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Problems of Wrapping Up a Series

The Citrus Singers performing at an Immigration swearing-in in Orlando

For a video of the girls singing, "America the Beautiful," click here.

This is the fourth year in a row the girls have been asked to perform at an Immigration ceremony - c. 80 new citizens, I understand.

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Not long ago, I was discussing (by phone) with my son, who lives in Connecticut, why George R. R. Martin has not yet put out the last volume of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). My personal theory is that it was done long ago and HBO is paying him - and likely his publisher as well - to keep the book on ice until the television series completes its final season. Then again, I am currently fighting the complexities of winding up a series that is only four books with perhaps a hundred characters, while Martin must juggle six books with what must be thousands of characters, the places they live, their friends, their enemies (which change according to which way the wind blows), the whims of monarchs, would-be monarchs, and some twists and turns that have shocked readers to the core. Including the final moments of Season 5. Sigh. So maybe he is still working on Book 6. (Though I doubt it.)

What I'm attempting to illustrate this week is that if your series features a loosely connected set of characters (for example, friends from school days), with each book telling one character's personal story, then your challenge is not so great. You only have to find a way to incorporate all the series' main characters into the denouement of the final book. BUT . . .

If you're writing a series in which the a single primary plot extends over the entire length of the series . . . 

Where each book adds more characters, more names & places, more sub-plots, more disasters, more triumphs, more loves, more hates, more suspicions . . .

Then you have to find a way to keep track of it all, so you don't end up with egg on your face: changing the color of a main character's eyes; wrongly naming the capital city of a certain country—or in the case of my Blue Moon Rising series—a planet. Another example: In my SciFi saga, there are something like a dozen romances, two of them a threesome; one, gay. They do not get equal time, but keeping the pairs straight isn't always easy. (No pun intended.)

There are a myriad names, for both people, places, and things, plus vocabulary created just for the series. There are different kinds of spaceships, new kinds of armaments. And a variety of governments in sixteen star systems (though only three get prominent positions in the story).

So unless you are gifted with a photographic memory, how do you manage?

In my case—in a 4" ring notebook, which is easily portable from my computer room to my bedroom (the bastion of my editing). Here is a list of that notebook's contents—all in plastic sleeves, which I mess up with post-it notes of what needs to be added:

1.  Character lists from the first three books - the list for Royal Rebellion is still under construction, as I add minor characters here and there.

2.  Character descriptions - several pages, though not as comprehensive as I would like.

3.  World Building - 12 pages, including Religion & Tradition, Government, Paranormal Talents, Transportation, War Craft, Armaments, Starships, Planets/Cities/Palaces, Places & Other Peoples, Jumpgates, Food, Drinks, Birds & Animals, Plants, Epithets/Profanity/Expressions, General Vocabulary

4.  Names - Before beginning Book 1, I made a list of First & Last Names for the citizens of the two major star systems in the series. It runs to ten pages, and was of constant help through the c. five years it's taken to complete the series.

There are also four pages of names from Astronomy and Greek mythology, plus an extensive printout of Greek Gods & Goddesses. (Since my characters are all descended from Old Earth, I felt justified in using the ancient names that are still known and used in our time. (Such as naming a spaceship Astarte or Andromeda.)

But even with all these aids, I found myself having to go back and search for bits and pieces I failed to record. Occasionally, I couldn't even recall which book the elusive fact was in, and I had to run a search on all three. Sigh. 

So, believe me, I feel for George R. R. Martin, whose "wrap up" has to be exponentially more difficult than mine. If you've only seen the TV series, you may not realize the vast wealth of names and places Martin wrote about in Books 1-5. It's positively astonishing. And explains so much of what simply happens without explanation on television. As for me, I'm struggling to wrap up all the loose ends in the Blue Moon Rising series—not because it's absolutely necessary to dot every "i" and cross every "t," but because it gives me satisfaction to allow a host of secondary characters to find their own Happily Ever After. (Or not, as the case may be.) Although I'm grinding my teeth and writing myself notes as I find discrepancies during my third edit, I am also enjoying all the explanations and motivations I managed to include, the peeks into the lives of the next generation, the ones who, hopefully, will be tasked with keeping the rebels' reforms alive.

Providing the rebels win, that is. Like Martin, I'm not about to give away the ending. Even though any reader of my books knows I'm an advocate of Happily Ever After.

If you are writing a series with a different plot and different major characters in each book, the challenge of keeping your facts straight is relatively simple.

If you are writing a series with a single plot, numerous sub-plots, and characters who appear and reappear in each succeeding book, then you are going to have to find a way to keep track of your facts. Unless you have a photographic memory, you will need either hardcopy in a notebook or a special file on your computer, where you meticulously record what your imagination created, but which it is unlikely you are going to remember over a period of half a decade or more. Don't shirk! I wish I'd recorded even more facts than I did while I wrote Rebel Princess, Sorcerer's Bride, and The Bastard Prince

By Royal Rebellion I finally got to the point where there wasn't a lot more to add beyond the names of the new generation, but I still had to refer constantly to my Character List for which baby belonged to whom. 

Grace Note:  The challenge of keeping it all straight definitely keeps me on my toes. My advice: if you don't want to exercise your brain too hard, don't write a series with a long-term plot and hundreds/thousands of characters! But if you welcome the challenge, go for it!

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For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page - NEW on April 14, 2018, click here.

To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by,

1 comment:

  1. I love the books of Miss Read (Dora Jessie Saint), and recently decided to reread, in order, the 20 books of her Fairacre series. Only then did I realize that the main character's cat changes sex a few times from book to book.