Continuity is rather important to me. I do not like learning something about the characters of a series, only for the writers to turn around and change it several seasons later. Take for example the BBC show I have binge-watching on Netflix lately, Monarch of the Glen. They throw a pretty serious wrench into the romantic subplot between the Male lead and one of his childhood mates by suggesting the two might actually be half-siblings due to an affair on his father’s part. It was, of course, all wrapped up by the end of the episode that his father was not her father which allowed them to further explore the romance later on. But, in that pivotal episode, Hector (the father in question) admits he has never cheated on his wife because she was his one and only. Sweet, right?
Several episodes later, perhaps in the following season (series since it is a British programme, after all), it is established that Hector left for the army at age 18 and came back 4 years later married to Molly…
Are we on the same page? He has never cheated on his wife, they were married when he was somewhere between 18 and 22. Now, I am at the end of Season 3 and he is about to die. (I’m taking a break because I am not quite ready for that yet.)
And can you guess what is going to be introduced in Season 4? If you guessed a half-sibling, you guessed correct. Now, I must apologize for any spoilers here, but Amazon actually tells you this bit in the description, which is why those two bits in the beginning really bother me. Here you are, building what is essentially your canon – the back story, only to turn around and toss it out the window in a later season.
So now, I am faced with the decision: keep watching, or abandon knowing I will be disappointed in the end?
And this is something that we, as writers, need to pay attention to. Especially if we are writing a series, which I am planning. I’ve read about creating a Story Bible, but really – you need a World Bible. One place where you can store all the odds and ends, the people, and the events. Everything. Some people do it via Pinterest, others do it on their hard drive, perhaps a USB… Others, myself included, prefer a good old-fashioned 3 ring binder.
Why, you ask, do we need to pay attention to this? Well, exactly for the reason above. We, as readers, pay attention to those little details. At least, I do. For me, those little bits and pieces are important. If you establish something in book one, I am going to take it as canon. And you had better have a damn good reason to change it or ignore it in a later book, or I will walk away.
I did it with the Anita Blake series. She started out as this total badass who killed the things that needed killed, raised the dead, and had a great working relationship with the cop. What happened later? Sex. Sex. Sex. Did I mention sex? Yawn. (And if we are being honest here, not really good sex. Yes, better than E.L. James by far, but still. Definitely C grade porn. No excuse for that.)
I will share two links today to sites that discuss the Story Bible better than I can. Both sites recommend using Microsoft One Note. I am rather partial to Google Docs, but I do not think it has an equivalent program. I wonder if Open Office does? (Yes, I do have Microsoft Office on my PC, but most of my writing is done on my Chrome Book).
But first, I want to know – do you use a Story Bible? If you do, what program do you prefer, or are you an old-schooler like me?
Here is the first link, from Kaye Dacus. She has some great writing advice – I am a frequent visitor to her site.
The second link is new to me, but I believe you will find it useful. He discusses Scrivener if you use that.