Many novels, particularly the lengthier multi-volumes in the fantasy field, are packed with characters, some major, some minor, others appearing so intermittently that they can be easily forgotten. Many readers will remember a full cast list with no problem; they simply go with the flow and, especially with a well-written story that has an engaging narrative, hardly ever need to check the list of characters, or dramatis personae. Nevertheless, having something that can be referred to when you’re unsure just who is who can be invaluable. Think Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones and you can see what I mean. Or you may be reading mainstream or crime or any other genre: the arguments for the dramatis personae may still apply.
Perhaps you are writing a fantasy novel in which your characters travel across a fantastical realm. Or a science fiction story set on a strange planet in a far off galaxy. An early question that comes to your mind: do you need a map? The short answer is … yes! I would go further and say that you require a map, or a plan, for almost any book or story you tackle, no matter the genre. It is vital that you – the author of the piece – understand the topography of your world, you know which route your characters need to take when travelling from A to B and all places beyond.
Penkhull’s Peter Coleborn blogs about the forthcoming Alchemy Press book,Something Remains, which he co-edited with Pauline E Dungate:
At the 2013 World Fantasy Convention, held in Brighton, Joel Lane’s Where Furnaces Burn won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Due to personal problems Joel wasn’t able to collect the award in person. I had intended to visit Joel soon after, meet up for one of our irregular balti meals with mutual friends Dave Sutton, James Brogden, John Howard, Mike Chinn and Stan Nicholls, and to toast Joel for the win. Sadly, that visit to Birmingham didn’t materialise in time – for not long after the convention Joel passed away in his sleep. His death left a huge cavity in my life.