Thursday, May 17, 2012

The E-Organized Story

The medieval kings and queens of England—what a confusion of Edwards, Richards and Henrys, of Elizabeths and Margarets! Keeping them all straight was a problem while writing my Three Graces trilogy set at the court of Henry VII.  

That was, until I hit upon the idea of using my genealogy program, Family Tree Maker, to keep track. Creating a family chart for Henry Tudor, father of Henry VIII, was just a matter of typing in his name as the “home person” in a new tree. The same was true for Edward IV and the rest of the Plantagenets involved in the story.  Every name entered was greeted by the ubiquitous “leaf” icon which indicated more information available on Clicking a few times added the appropriate birth and death dates, plus the spouses and children, brothers, sisters and ancestors for each royal personage. An hour later, I had the pedigree charts I needed for fast and easy reference.

Not everyone is writing about royalty, of course. But a genealogy program can also be used to track fictional characters, particularly the siblings, cousins and other relatives in a connected series or multi-generational family saga. Using the “New Tree” feature, you might begin with your main character. Type in his or her given and surname names, give them a birth date, then add a father and mother and any siblings along with their appropriate dates. From there you can create as many grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as your heart desires or your story requires.

If you are feeling super organized, you can add other details such as previous spouses or, in the “Notes” field, include detailed character descriptions and any unusual features, scars or habits. Save and print this “family tree,” and you’ll never have to search your manuscript pages again for that name, age, relationship or description that you can’t quite remember.

Since publishing her first book at age 27, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over 65 historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres. She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her 8th-generation Louisiana heritage. Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.

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