Cara Elliott said: Map out characters and stories in advance? The very thought sends shivers of horror quaking down my fingertips. The pencil slips . . . the keyboard slides . . . the page and screen ripple with an ominous blankness . . .
I usually have a very specific opening scene in mind (the bauble) And then work out a vague concept of the whole story and what motivates the hero and heroine. From there . . . well, things just happen. And for me that's part of the magic of creating stories. The plot and the characters take shape as I go along. When I do a series, (and I've only done trilogies) I will decide on the three main characters and the hero/heroine's “match” for the first story. The second and third story is usually not even an idea yet, as I need to wait and see how the secondary characters grow, and what personalities they develop.
Seriously, I really don't know who they are until they start doing things on the page. They often surprise me. I've had a very minor character step up and turn out to be the hero of a future book when I never imagined he would play more than a bit part. But as I said, that's the fun for me. My brain simply doesn't work in a way where I can carefully draft out a whole book or-heaven forbid-a whole series. My editor knows by now that my rough outlines are done more for mirth than for any useful information.
This happens to me regularly. So far, I haven't had much trouble keeping my characters straight since to me, they're very real and very distinct. But someday I might hit the tipping point and have to start some more organized way of keeping track!
Nicola Cornick said:I'm getting better at planning a series in advance but I'm still not exactly organised! When I first started writing it wasn't unknown that I would write a stand alone book and only when it was finished would I decide I'd like to write a story for the secondary characters. My editor got pretty fed up with that.
These days I do at least start off with a group of characters and a theme that binds them all together. For my Scandalous Women of the Ton series I knew who the first three heroines would be and I knew that the series was all about women who did not fit the mores of the time, whether it was because they travelled or worked for a living or had five husbands! But I'm never going to be the sort of writer who has it all planned in advance, and to be honest I enjoy it when characters develop and demand their own story, and when new ideas come along and I go off at a tangent!
So, in my first books, the traditional Regencies, I wove from story to story with fairly loose connections.
As for keeping track, Heyer had more sense than me. It's hard work, especially with so many books in each World. I'm going to write more about this whole subject in my Friday blog.
It happens like this . . . I'll be writing along and I get interested in a minor character. What shapes him? What's his family? What happens to him after the Happily Ever After?
Before you can say 'sequel bait', I start seeing the secondary character doing absolutely fascinating stuff. And it's pop goes the weasel and there's the next manuscript.
I didn't actually plan to write a series. I sort of fell into it.
Anne here again. Fascinating how similar we are, isn't it? However, there is no one way to approach a series; some writers I know of do plot out a series with spreadsheets and all manner of tracking devices. We just aren't them.
My first editor at Mills and Boon wasn't interested in me writing series, even though some minor characters called to me, but when I sold The Perfect Rake to Berkley, my editor there simply assumed it was the first book in a series. That hadn't even occurred to me, so like Joanna, I fell into it.
To read an excerpt of Anne Gracie's book go to The Accidental Wedding