Friday, February 17, 2006

Tangled Branches of the Family Tree

I decided it was high time I sat down and committed my characters' family tree to paper. I had been holding the information in my head, but hadn't really worked out the dates of everything to see if what I had intended would work. Sort of crucial considering how each of the characters from the four books in this series are all intertwined in one way or another.

So I broke out the graph paper notebook and started plotting. And quickly ran out of room. I needed to take it back a generation or two in order to get the lineage down properly. I needed room for notes, I need to show how one family tree became entangled with another. And my 8.5 x 10 paper just wasn't going to cut it.

Oddly enough, the day before I started this project, a co-worker noted we still had rolls of paper left from our office move a couple years back. Sheets of paper that measured about 4 ½ feet long and 3 feet wide. I thought of that paper as I tried to jam everything onto my little scrap. The next day I left work with an armful of the paper. Today I will purchase a package of multi-colored sharpies and this weekend, get to work. I have it roughed out on paper and I think everything works, but each character has their own separate sheet and I need to see it all on one to really get a better feel for it and all the different relationships that overlap.

One thing I did notice as I was doing this exercise--a lot of people had to die to get my characters to where they were. Parents, siblings, spouses, fiances. Which meant I had to come up with interesting and yet plausible deaths. That meant aging some of the characters to let them simply expire of old age. Threw in some disease, a few accidents. I'm still working out all the particulars on this and hoping it doesn't end up as, well...overkill, I guess you could say.

Does anyone else work out elaborate family trees for their characters, and if so, what methods do you use?


Tess said...

Yep, I surely do. Going back at least two generations as well.

Being the software slut I am, though, I use Legacy Family Tree to do mine *g*. Then I print off the various tables and have them in my character binders :-)

Have fun with the coloured sharpies and extra big paper!! How will you keep Coop off it?

Kelly said...

I may have to spread it out on the table. If I roll that out anywhere on the floor she'll just stretch out on top of it. Why do they do that??

Peggy said...

Nope. I've never had to untangle anything further back than good ole mom and dad!

Tess said...

Cause they want ALL our attention, ALL the time!!

And with me, a table won't work. Cats jump, especially kittens *g*. Yet another reason using software is easier for me.

Nikki said...

That's the great thing about chick lit -- it ain't too messy.

That sounds like a ton of work -- but fun too. I'm sure it's a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but once you've got it all figured out it will feel pretty great.

Have fun with it Kelly!

Erin said...

Yep, I've gone back 4 generations for a character I've created - I used Excel to lay things out. As for's their way of saying "See how helpful I can be? Now you can either put away this silly thing and pay attention to me, or I'm going to stay here and FORCE you to pay attention to me!".

Either that, or they're just looking for something different to lay down on - but I'm going with the attention seeking bit.

And, as for coming up with plausible deaths - Farming tools!!! *G*

Kelly said...

I dunno. After you've killed one character with a pitchfork it becomes a bit redundant.

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow. That sounds like quite the process. I usually only go back a generation or two, but I can see what a great tool it would be to go back more than a few.

Michelle said...

Good way to do it! That's something I need to work on. Hadn't thought about the deaths though. Oops. :)