Working with an alternate universe has its upsides – one can invent a whole culture and landscape without having to specify and conform to the world as it is now – but it also has its downsides. One being that, for When the Clock Broke’s sequel, I’m working in the future, and, I have calculated, my protagonist is born in 2036. Um…
It’s more than that, though. Whether consciously or not, I’ve managed to create a world ready to be explored. Maybe not ‘deep’, but some place I lose myself in.
But with that, many things arrive that I need to clear up in my mind. In a world where names are based on status and geographical position, eg. The Big College, The Second Continent, I have to take care and understand every little detail – hence the title of this post.
I shall admit that I forget a lot. Mostly these things are little, but sometimes my mind wanders during first draft, and I find myself with cables to electric lighting that should not exist. Tomorrow I talk about how much I value my research – and these little things I must keep on a firm plateaux of knowledge.
For instance, the name of one of Zara’s brothers. He may only be in a couple of scenes, but he deserves to have a name, does he not…?
One of my younger writer friends, who works mostly with YA contemporary, introduced me to an idea: create a family tree. Whilst this does not fix my universe problems, it can deal with the times when I utter to myself, “now, how much older is Phillip’s eldest brother at the reunion dinner?” Or words to that effect!
With such a range of ages on my entire cast (I am counting Supporting Characters and Minor Characters with lines), 10 to 50-something; you see, I need more than my paper notes. Thank goodness for the internet!
I could get lost in the family tree. It’s really rather addictive from an author’s point of view. Each person has a whole biography that can be filled in, including interests, occupation, place of birth, etc. And I get to cast each character a thousand times. It’s funny because casting myself as one character means that, technically, my brother-in-law is Tom Cruise!
Unfortunately, to be really exact (yes: a tautology), the dates still need to be tweaked. And, because the tree is ‘between novels’, I’m not clear on who should be dead or not! The only downside is that whenever I add a new sibling onto the tree of a character with no parents, it adds parents on regardless. I added Aidelle’s sister and brother – and felt obliged to find names for the parents who had sprung into the tree.
I think you’re able to see the whole WTCB family tree at FamilyEcho.com without having to log in (you are viewing it as Aidelle, apparently). I tried to export the format to the blog, but I’m not that much of an internet whizzo. The tree technically contains spoilers for the WTCB trilogy, though.