Keeping track of characters

While we all (including me) wait for ‘Pitkirtly XII’ to be finished, I thought I would write a bit about how I keep track of the characters in the Pitkirtly mystery series. This was something I didn’t even think about until I had already written at least six of the books. It was only then that I realised I was having to go back through previous books to remind myself of certain people’s names. Police officers seemed to be particularly easily forgotten, although I also had trouble with dogs’ names, often within the same book.

blue elephant

(picture for World Elephant Day)

I’m not one of those people who uses an Excel file to keep them organised, unlike one of the finalists in the recent ‘Caravanner of the Year’ contest, who claimed to have all his activities colour-coded. but after ploughing through about six novels on more than one occasion to find a minor character’s last name, I decided to use an Excel file to record a few essential details about the people I had so far encountered in Pitkirtly. Sometimes the bare essentials turn into a little more , so there’s a note against one character’s name saying “May have gone off with Deirdre after ‘A Tasteful Crime'” – and sometimes a little less, as in the case of Christopher’s neighbour, Mr Brownlow who “doesn’t really do anything but is occasionally mentioned”. That would be a very sad epitaph! Not that I’m seeing him as a potential murder victim or anything, I hasten to add.

I should emphasise here that the file isn’t exactly a planning tool, as I don’t usually  update it before writing the next novel,  but it helps to reduce the time I wasted in trying to remember things that should carry over from one book to another. Occasionally the thing I think I should remember isn’t there at all. An example of that is Jan from the woolshop’s last name, which I don’t think has ever been mentioned at all, although for a while I was convinced it had been. (If anyone knows differently please don’t hesitate to let me know!)

That was just a glimpse into my writing methods, for want of a better word. Now I suppose I’d better get back to putting them into practice!

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