Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wednesday Writerly Wisdom

I feel rather sanctimonious doling out writing advice. I doubt I have much more to offer than anyone else. What works for one writer might not work for another. After all, our minds all work differently.

I'm finishing up my fourth three-book series. So I thought I'd talk  a little about building and keeping facts straight within a series.

First, let me define what I mean by a series. To me, it's the same as a trilogy. Three books with a similar theme, typically set in the same area, and characters that flow from one book to the other even though each book has a different romantic couple. Each concludes with an HEA. There are no cliff-hangers.

So here are my series.

I've written The Red Hand Conspiracy, romantic suspense set mainly in Paris, dealing with a terrorist group called The Red Hand. This series is off the market right now as I revamp them to self-publish this year--time permitting.

The Wild Heat Series, romantic suspense with dollops of humor set in Clearwater, Florida, dealing with Fire and Marine Rescue Personnel of a top-notch fire station.

The Highlander Beloved Series, paranormal books with hunks in kilts that shift into bears.

Black Eagle Ops Series, set in a small town in the Hill Country of Texas. One of the main characters lives  on Eagle Ridge Ranch and is a former SEALs recuperating from the ravages of fighting ISIS in Syria.

For each series I do the typical thing, open a file named for the series. In it I put all my research in case my editor questions me on something I've written about. For each book, I make up a character list. This also goes into the series file.

The character list includes name, age, education, background, personal habits or dislikes, favorite sayings, and physical description. For minor characters that only appear once or are mentioned a few times, I keep this brief. You'd be surprised how a main character in book one with curly blonde hair has straight brunette hair in book three as a more minor character. Yup, I forget. I have a character list for each book and, for ease, copy and paste what I have for book one into book two and three. Why not use the same list, you might ask. Because I might not use all the characters in every book, everyone ages, plus I'll be introducing more people with each consecutive book.

Originally, I'd put this information into a spreadsheet format. But I found it too time consuming. Now I list each character in order of appearance in the book. My point of view characters names are in red to keep me straight in that department. I list the person's name and info something like this:
REECE MORGAN BROWNING-“STEELHEAD”—28, Light brown  straight hair, almost to shoulders, hazel eyes, 6’1”, one arm missing below bicep, scars on back, doesn’t like to interact with people, and has nightmares and day visions due to PTSD. Mother deceased. Close relationship with dad. Twin, but estranged from brother due to brother’s drug use…has taken over roll of father to his niece in brother’s absence. Two years of college. Loves Greek plays and poetry. Loves working with horses. Likes his Jack Daniels. Enjoys dirty talk during sex. Lives up to his promises. Sings very well.
For a minor character, I keep the description brief.
DR. JUAN RAYMOND—Psychiatrist, expert in PTSD. Wears oblong gold-rimmed glasses.
I also make up a Place and Business List. This is a master list for each series. It includes restaurants, beauty shops, clothing stores, hotels, doctors, schools...whatever my characters might visit or use. By using the same doctor or drug store in each book, it builds consistency and makes the reader feel comfortable with the area. In my Black Eagle Ops series, for example, there is Tillie's Homemade Taffies and Chocolates, known to locals as the house of sin. 

And, of course, the series file contains the manuscript for each book and subsequent edits, blurbs, and tag lines.

When I'm writing, I have three documents open. The manuscript, obviously, the character sheet for the book I'm writing, and my series place and business list. I can easily check things in an instant. My books remain consistent with the small details. Simple organization that pays off during promo when bloggers ask you questions. All your answers will be in one spot.

Do you write series? What tips can you share?

1 comment:

Angela Adams said...

I haven't written a series, and the only advice I can give to others is for them to listen to advice from Vonnie Davis. I do, and it's always been helpful (smile!).