“The Straight Scoop” – 52 Pickup, Week 7

Question #8

Kim Busking Henderson:

“I just finished reading Mr. Johnson’s reply to question 49. I had forgotten about the altercation between Walt and Henry at the drinking fountain, as it’s only been mentioned and I’ve read too many books to count since I finished the Longmire series. So my question is, Mr. Johnson, how do you keep track of each character’s back story? I read A LOT, most often series as opposed to stand alone books and it’s not uncommon to catch something in a back story that doesn’t match from a previous book. I don’t recall that ever happening in a Longmire book!”

Hi Kim,

Interesting question and one that haunts me on a continual basis… It haunts the copyeditors, too, but they have a tendency to focus on the novel at hand, which leaves the responsibility of the longer arc up to me.

It’s pretty easy when you start out, but as the books mount up it becomes more of a challenge to keep the chronology and landscape of the characters’ lives straight. Personally, I love dropping little clues as to the details of the character’s lives and enjoy circling around and using those tidbits in future adventures. Generally, I can find the focal point of a plot in a previous book, which allows me to narrow the research on my own writing to a singular novel. Once I do that, it’s a question of digging into that particular book and finding the tracks I left for myself. I have to admit that it’s enjoyable to surprise myself with things that if they haven’t slipped my mind, were just hanging in the wings waiting to be used again.

Another thing I do is enlist the help of my ol’ buddy George Guidall, who does the audio version of my books. Living where I do in northern Wyoming, I spend a lot of time on the road in my old truck. The audio books are a Godsend in that I can just pop the CDs in and listen to George for a few hours, reacquainting myself with the characters and their histories.

In many ways it’s like keeping track of the stories in your family, and since I spend about as much time with the characters as I do with the real people in my life, I guess it’s not that difficult. I suppose I find them fascinating and hope you will continue to as well.

—Craig

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