Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Revisiting Characters - guest post from David Robinson

David Robinson is a popular author with several book series under his belt – though his wife insists the resultant bulge is due to an excess of pork pies and real ale.

How difficult is it to bring back characters from previous books? Today I’ve invited David to reveal all to the readers of Writers’ Checklist.

People say to me, “It must be easy working with the same characters in title after title. You don’t need to go into great detail describing them or fleshing out their history because you did it all in the first book.”

Not entirely true, but it’s a valid point. That’s the upside.

The downside is the propensity for making mistakes. I published the first Spookies title in 2007 with Virtual Tales. In The Haunting at Melmerby Manor, Sceptre was 27 years old. I self-published The Man In Black in 2009 and in it, Sceptre was 26 years old. When I finally put the two together in the Spookies Compendium, I corrected the error.

Usually, when I write a novel, I set up a spreadsheet containing all the information regarding the characters. Once the novel is published, the spreadsheet along with all the early drafts is sent to the recycle bin and in the natural course of events, it’s cleared out.

But I can’t do that with series. I have to maintain a master sheet, and the amount of information is much more detailed. If I have character X smoking his head off in Book 1, I can’t say he’s never touched a cigarette in Book 3. If she divorced her philandering husband in Book 2, I can’t have her weeping over his recent death after years of happy marriage in Book 4.

There are other things I need to note, too. One character in my novel, Voices, had a habit of pausing with the muttered “–ah–”. If he reappears in later tales, it’s vital that I include this little foible.
There’s also a level of frustration. You get to book 4 and think, “why couldn’t I have written Joe as a six foot hunk?” But it’s too late. He’s five feet six inches of skin and bone and that is what I have to work with.

This process has to be the author’s responsibility. Maureen does a marvellous job of editing and tidying up my crap typing, but I can’t expect her to maintain in-depth character profiles from every piece I write. 

And yet, having said that, it’s a tribute to Maureen’s skills that in the latest piece, she picked up on something I’d missed. When discussing Joe, I said that in his younger days, he wanted to be a cop but his father stopped him. Maureen pointed out that Joe could never have been a police officer. When he was a young man there was a height restriction (5’8” I believe) and Joe is only 5’6”.
Now that’s what I call attention to detail.

Working with the same characters is fun and there is a challenge in having them tackle different situations, but in many ways it’s more complex than producing stand alone stories.

It’s still early in the New Year, and it’s some time since I last guest posted on Maureen’s blog, so may I take this opportunity to thank her for allowing me the platform, and to wish Maureen and all her readers the very best for 2012. May all your dreams come to pass.

David's bio
David lives and works as a novelist on the northeast outskirts of Manchester, England. He is a prolific author, having produced works in cosy crime, psycho-horror, sci-fi and humour. 
The latest book in his popular whodunit series starring the members of the Sanford 3rd Age Club is  A Murder for Christmas You can read free samples chapters of David’s books HERE.
David's website.

1 comment:

DW96 said...

May one be permitted to comment that the bulge is nothing to do with pork pies and ale. I'm just relaximg my six pack.