The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Some Thoughts, Part Two – Extras

Posted by BigWords on April 1, 2010

When I say that I have been creating a wealth of information outside of the novel to enhance my understanding of the world I am playing with, you might very well expect the data to be dry, ordered in line with a series bible for a television show. Not so. There are numerous pieces of data which exist outside of the story itself, but which inform and shape the moments that are covered in the story. As I am expanding on the idea of what a story (and the media in which it is transported) can become, it seems appropriate to elaborate on what I am doing.

Since I’ve made no secret, here and elsewhere, about my admiration for Philip Jose Farmer, it should come as no surprise that I have been making family trees of my main characters going as far back as the adoption of the Gregorian calendar – trying to fudge my way through the prior complexities is asking for trouble and necessarily time-consuming. These can add a lot to the character’s past if used cleverly, because placing them in a specific social strata, location, familial lineage, and cementing their dates all adds to detail. There is a good character breakdown sheet template here, which I have recently been using to take my characters from sketches to fully rounded people. Now I know when, who, and (roughly) where, I need to nail down the specifics of the location. Which means maps. I’m not simply printing out screengrabs of Google Maps, because that would be far, far too easy – and the level of complexity with which the world is taking on means that anything so simple is less than helpful. The Devil is in the detail, to twist a phrase, and I – poor deluded and psychotic world-builder that I am – need something which can be used again and again.

I’m building my own maps, mostly of parts of London where I know I’m going to be setting large chunks of the narrative. The maps aren’t at all accurate though, including locales which have either been knocked down over the years (great chunks during WWII), are in disuse (lots of Underground stations), are hidden from the public, or never existed at all (Hobbs Lane). Getting closer to the ground, and nearer the specifics I need to draw on, there are other plans which get generated for the benefit of the world, and the character, and the plot. The house in which the MC lives is, in line with the way I am approaching other aspects of this world, designed for the most impact. I work out where rooms adjoin, where storage space is partitioned off, which aspect the building will be facing… None of which has impact on larger pieces of the Story aspects, but which has the potential to dig me out of a brain-freeze if I should need assistance.

Having built a robust world, and with enough supplemental material to last through a considerable length of time, I find myself pondering the release schedules of series titles. For something based off of other media, the Star Trek or Doctor Who novel series’ are good examples, there is less need for constant exposure to the public, but for original novel series there is always a lull between books, necessitated by the titles being refined by the author. In this silence between releases there is much missed potential. Having an author blog, or a forum, or any form of relationship with the audience, is important, but a lack of new material for months at a time will eventually drive even the most ardent fan to look for something similar just for the meantime. That search for similar works may lead them to works which speak more closely to their heart, so having something to sneak out between books is a good idea.

Wow, all those bits and pieces of art, writing and background may come in handy after all, huh? As teasers, they may hint at things to come, or clarify events already told, but they will have the undeniable effect of keeping the already-hooked audience waiting for more such material. The additional material may even be used to create something new, but that rolls over into ideas I’m having concerning marketing and – as such – has no place here.

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