Details I Want to Know – Making a Character Tree

Working with an alternate universe has its upsides – one can invent a whole culture and landscape without having to specify and conform to the world as it is now – but it also has its downsides. One being that, for When the Clock Broke’s sequel, I’m working in the future, and, I have calculated, my protagonist is born in 2036. Um…

It’s more than that, though. Whether consciously or not, I’ve managed to create a world ready to be explored. Maybe not ‘deep’, but some place I lose myself in.

But with that, many things arrive that I need to clear up in my mind. In a world where names are based on status and geographical position, eg. The Big College, The Second Continent, I have to take care and understand every little detail – hence the title of this post.

I shall admit that I forget a lot. Mostly these things are little, but sometimes my mind wanders during first draft, and I find myself with cables to electric lighting that should not exist. Tomorrow I talk about how much I value my research – and these little things I must keep on a firm plateaux of knowledge.

For instance, the name of one of Zara’s brothers. He may only be in a couple of scenes, but he deserves to have a name, does he not…?

One of my younger writer friends, who works mostly with YA contemporary, introduced me to an idea: create a family tree. Whilst this does not fix my universe problems, it can deal with the times when I utter to myself, “now, how much older is Phillip’s eldest brother at the reunion dinner?” Or words to that effect!

With such a range of ages on my entire cast (I am counting Supporting Characters and Minor Characters with lines), 10 to 50-something; you see, I need more than my paper notes. Thank goodness for the internet!

treesnippetI could get lost in the family tree. It’s really rather addictive from an author’s point of view. Each person has a whole biography that can be filled in, including interests, occupation, place of birth, etc. And I get to cast each character a thousand times. It’s funny because casting myself as one character means that, technically, my brother-in-law is Tom Cruise!

Unfortunately, to be really exact (yes: a tautology), the dates still need to be tweaked. And, because the tree is ‘between novels’, I’m not clear on who should be dead or not! The only downside is that whenever I add a new sibling onto the tree of a character with no parents, it adds parents on regardless. I added Aidelle’s sister and brother – and felt obliged to find names for the parents who had sprung into the tree.

I think you’re able to see the whole WTCB family tree at without having to log in (you are viewing it as Aidelle, apparently). I tried to export the format to the blog, but I’m not that much of an internet whizzo. The tree technically contains spoilers for the WTCB trilogy, though.

The beauty of casting River Song to play one’s character… xD
The beauty of casting River Song to play one’s character… xD

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