Monday, March 06, 2006

Character Arc In a Series--Part 4

Happy Monday. I am 12 days away from deadline on Coral Moon and counting.

Speaking of which, thanks to Dineen Miller for (unwittingly) coining a new word for BGdom in her comment on Friday. Said she was praying for me as I meet my “deadling.” Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is brilliant. And quite Freudian. Blends earthling (mere one that I am) with deadline. The two should not mix, but alas, in the writing world, they do. Or perhaps it mixes deadline with counting (as in pages and words, and too few days left). Or perhaps both. At any rate, from now on I shall never work on a deadline again.

I am 12 days away from deadling.

Does have a nice ring, don’t you think? (Unless you’re in the midst of it.)

A few other comments from Friday:

Sally: I wonder how far we should go as writers. For example, if my story takes place in 2002 in Chicago suburbs, should I be researching the weather and daily events, too? Seems like this could become a huge obsession!

Agreed, and I don’t think you have to go so far as to match weather to day. But you do need to match believable weather. If your story takes places in February in Chicago, you don’t want 60 degree weather unless you note that’s a doggone heat wave. For Violet Dawn, I had to be careful about sunrise time because the opening of the story is based on that issue. I didn’t want North Idahoans reading my book and thinking, “Good grief, doesn’t she know the sun doesn’t rise at 6 a.m. here in July?” (Sunrise and sunset in Northern Idaho are very interesting. They change way faster than in California, for example, because they go to further extremes. At winter solstice, daylight starts to fade at 3:30 in the afternoon. At summer solstice, the first lightening of the sky will begin at 3:30 in the morning.) For Dread Champion (some books ago), I needed to research the tides in the Salinas, California area, where my crime scene was set. Someone reading the book might happen to known when tides go in and out, and since that was an important detail to investigation of the scene, I wanted it to be correct. Past this, I say don’t obsess too much. Of course, if you use a real event that occurred in that Chicago suburb, you sure do want to place it, and your story, on the right day.

If you didn’t see the comments between Bonnie and Vennessa from Friday, I suggest you read them. They both made good points. To Bonnie’s final question about the necessity of making years work (when you don’t name the year in the story), I’d add a final thought.

Even if you don’t delineate the year, you as author need to know what year it is and make your timeline work, especially if you’re going to write a series that spans a certain number of years. There are so many hidden issues in your story that can end up dating it, even when you don’t realize it. For example, before 9/11/01 a character could meet another at the gate in the airport without a special pass. Now, no way. We’ve grown so used to the new security rules that we might automatically show someone picking up a passenger having to stop before security. But what if that’s book one of your series, and the four-book series encompasses six years in the characters’ lives? And you write one book a year? Readers who don’t obsess about year dates are going to assume the current book they’re reading is present year. That may be fine until book 4 comes out in 2006, and the kids in the series have aged six years, making it clear to the reader that book one (which came out in 2002) had to have taken place in 2000—before the new security rules. Someone who finds your series late and reads the books all at once to catch up will particularly be apt to notice this. Trust me, they will. So I don’t call for obsession. I do call, however, for awareness of how books may be dated when we don’t realize it.

Katie also made a very good point about a book in a series taking place ahead of real time. She mentioned one (in a great series, by the way) in which the date 9/11/01 passes like any other day. This is one of the reasons I don't like to get ahead of real time in my series timelines. You just don't know what's going to happen in the real world.

Tomorrow, we’ll go on to guideline #2 for writing a character arc within a series.

Read Part 5


Beth White said...

Brandilyn, you said "I don't like to get ahead of real time in my series timelines. You just don't know what's going to happen in the real world." I recently discovered the truth of this in writing Fair Game a book set on my home turf, the Gulf Coast. I had finished the first draft of the book before a nice young lady named Katrina came to visit us last fall. Had to make some rather stout revisions.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Oh, that...and Brandilyn's 9/11 comment make very good sense...Must watch out for this now!

Dineen A. Miller said...

ROTFL!!!!!!! Well, aren't I special. So glad I could be brilliant and not even know it. ;-)