Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Devil's in the Details

Writing a series can be a challenge. When you're writing the second or third book, it can be difficult to keep track of all the details you’ve already written in the first book. As G. Thomas Gill commented on one of my recent posts, Stand Alone vs. Series Novels, “to remember each and every little detail about your character, like what he drinks, the color car she drives, or his detest of Thai food.” That’s true of your main character, all the other characters in your novel, the setting, dates, everything. So how do writers do it?

I can only speak for myself. Let me first say that I am a list maker. I’m a firm believer in writing everything down that I need to remember as opposed to storing it loosely in my head. I detest the “What is it I’m forgetting?” feeling and I try to avoid it at all costs. So, I make lists for everything! Groceries and miscellaneous items that I need to buy, appointments, errands, phone calls I want to return; you name it, I write it down.

As I began to write my second novel, I found myself having to constantly go back into my first novel to check on various details. It was beginning to get on my last nerve and I realized what the problem was; I needed a plan, a list. So, I developed Characters and Chronology, an outline of “facts” that I needed to remember. I started with my main character, Ann, and listed her physical description, her age and important events in her life which I had mentioned in Mixed Messages. I then went on do the same with each character. Eventually, I expanded the outline to include the “new” characters in my second novel, Unfinished Business. When I begin to write the third novel in my series, I’ll add that information to my list too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I Joined Face Book

One of the basic tenets of writing fiction is to "write about what you know." I try to do that. My novels take place on the west side of Cincinnati, where I've spent most of my life and, although I "fictionalize" the area, I know it well. The characters I create are composites of people I've known, met or just come into contact with through the years; I feel almost as if I could run into them when I'm in Westwood because I know them.

Having written that, I don't mean to undermine the importance of doing research. I think it's crucial to incorporate things I don't know into my fiction. When I read a book, I like to learn something new; when I write, I like to learn too and I want to pass that on to my readers. That's where research comes in, gathering information from outside sources: books, the internet, etc., small details and facts that add to the story. But sometimes, in order to create believable fiction, that's not enough for me.

For years, friends had urged me to join Face Book but I held back. I assumed that the social network was nothing more than a "gossip" session online. But, as I wrote my second novel, something happened to change my mind. I needed to have one of my characters locate an old friend so I decided to have him join Face Book. I phoned one of my friends and asked him to "walk me through how to join and maneuver in Face Book." He did his best to explain it to me but it just wasn't clicking in. I realized that the only way I was going to be able to accurately and realistically write about my character's experience was to experience it myself and that's how I came to join Face Book. I'm glad I did.