A writer asked me this week how I keep track of all of my characters, since I have two works in progress with two more in the planning stages.
The answer is simple!
I cheat, Balzac style. I’ve always enjoyed his Comédie Humaine, mostly because I think it is the origin of what is now called a megaverse or universe of literature from an author or group of authors. Those of you who haven’t spent a semester or two on French Literature might be interested to know that Mr. Balzac wrote an immense series of novels to depict life at the end of the Napoleonic era. One of the unique things about these novels was the recurrence of characters. So far as I know he was the first significant novelist to do so, with some of his characters appearing in more than 29 novels all by themselves (which means they still didn’t appear in many more!) In order that a dreary summer of weekends reading French tomes in marathon sessions (in French) wasn’t a wasted month, I have followed suit. So far every novel I’ve written, including the ones I no longer sell, have taken place in the same timeline.
The urban fantasy story is the tale of how magic and science lead humanity to space colonization (towards the final novels planned in the series).
The lost-colony steampunk is the result of one of those explorer ships crashing on a planet.
The Song of Lagrandil books are the final days of that planet.
The sci-fi standalone is a time travel story in the end, that justifies the revision of the Young Adult tetrology into something more adult and sweeping when the sidekick of the series goes back in time to try and fix things, the timeline takes a quick spiral there and the retelling reflects the changes that the time traveler has made to his freinds’ futures (though he himself is mysteriously absent through books 1-2 and appears significantly differently in book 3, the reveal of whether or not he exists in his original form has to wait until book 4.)
That way I’m not tracking which characters or which, just what era of my imaginary world I’m spying on at the moment.