Since March 2008, I haven’t written much on the Perceval series of novels due to the interference of life concerns and issues. These things happen. Recently, ideas for the series started to trickle into my mind as if saying, OK, maybe it’s time to return to Evan’s story. But I’m in the middle of a job search, and even as the desire to plunge back into Evan’s story wrestles with the need for money to pay the bills, I’ve recognized a need to at least write down the ideas and fill in the outlines of the last 3 novels so that when I return to them, I won’t be completely lost. The first thing that goes is consistency….
Why, oh why am I writing a series? It’s hard enough to insure consistency in character and details in one novel, much less in five. The idea of writing Evan’s story as a series has felt inevitable to me and makes sense in terms of his development arc. Each novel presents a different problem for him to solve on his journey to freedom. That journey has interior and exterior paths, physical and emotional manifestations. Evan meets a lot of different people along the way, some friends, some enemies. I’ve discovered, too, that something he learns in novel 2 ends up playing a prominent role in the climax of the series in novel 5.
I can appreciate what J. K. Rowling must have gone through in maintaining consistency throughout her Harry Potter series. I’m about halfway through my series and have already discovered that I need to do something to keep details consistent and characters straight. Having one character change his identity was a brilliant idea but sometimes confuses me!
So far, my preferred method involves working files for each novel in which I keep notes about that novel, outlines incorporating important plot points and character details and research notes. I have a character file in which I keep all my character prep work and a master character list with summaries and descriptions of each character, broken out by novel. And then I have a master file for the entire series that holds outlines, geographical and political information and notes that pertain to Evan’s development arc and how various people and actions relate to it. Each novel also has its own research file for things relevant only to that novel. And I have a separate “future world” file in which I keep all my ravings and notes about Evan’s world, and my lengthy descriptions of America and Europe in 2048.
My impulse is not to worry about consistency too much until I have first drafts of all the novels. I’ve laid the groundwork for staying on top of the consistency issue now, and that’s probably the most important thing. I build each novel on the previous one, so Evan’s experience is cumulative and the world changes as he changes. I think of the five novels as sections in one long novel.
The fun side of this challenge is being in the middle of my imagination’s way of creating. For example, I have in my mind what the climax of the series is, which characters are involved and where it happens. The location was unusual enough that I needed to set it up, i.e. how Evan or any of the characters might know about its existence. It hit me one day while working on the first draft of novel 2 that I had a perfect opportunity in that story to set up the unusual location for the climax. I was amazed that my imagination recognized the opportunity, saving me a lot of grief in the future, plus the fact that my imagination had already been playing with the climactic scenes for several weeks before I saw the opportunity. I just love it when my imagination is having fun. And I’m grateful.
Trust the process. By trusting the process, it’s possible to let go and let the ideas and work flow. When I need ideas for maintaining consistency through the five novels, I trust my imagination to be there for me…..