I’ll admit it. I’ve never been one of those writers who does character or story outlines. Most of the time, I have no idea what’s going to happen in my stories. I usually know how I want the story to end, but I have only a vague idea of what will take place along the way.
Lately, I’m finding that making it up as I go along is fine for the story, but it’s not always the best strategy for the characters. This is especially true when it comes to writing a series of books. When characters appear in multiple stories, it isn’t always easy to keep all of their details straight.
While the writer might forget certain details, savvy readers will not. If you think writers love their characters, that’s nothing compared to the love felt by devoted fans. Trust me when I say they will catch these minor slips and will often point them out, as they should.
In my last novel, I barely saved myself from making a character both the sister and ex-wife of another character. Something about the two characters was bothering me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I reread the story.
Guess what? Oops, I almost did it again! This time, I almost changed the age of one of my characters. This character had a minor role in the first book but takes on a more prominent one in the third and fourth books. Early on, he was easily forgotten. I happened to catch this slip when I went back to the first book in search of an answer for a different question.
Using the earlier books as a reference guide is often how I’ve operated. It’s been helpful and has now saved me from making two major blunders in this series, but what if I hadn’t needed to go back to the first book? I wouldn’t have stumbled across this mistake.
Considering this is something that’s bitten me more than once, you would think I’d learned my lesson. I’m here to tell you I have. It’s time to take my craft more seriously. My books are a product and it’s my responsibility to give my readers a polished product.
From now on, I’m going to draft outlines for all of my characters before I sit down to write their stories. Not only will it give me a point of reference should questions arise throughout the story, but it might help me to retain some of the things I tend to forget as the story gets further along. It might be a little more work, and it might delay the start of the story, but it can only help in the long run. I owe it to my readers to change my ways.