Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Power of a Family Tree

with guest blogger - Amanda Cabot




With the current interest in genealogy and tracing ancestors, you may have created a personal family tree or at least considered doing so, but have you developed one for one of your books?  While I’ll be the first to admit that you don’t need a family tree for many stories, I’m here to tell you that they can be extremely helpful and – yes – powerful for some books.

It’s confession time.  I grew up reading sagas.  You know what I mean, those long, multi-generational stories that were popular more years ago than I’m going to admit.  One of the things that fascinated me about them was that they almost always had a family tree in the front of the book.  Those were designed to help readers keep track of who’s who and who’s related to whom in what way.  I was hooked!  But as much as I liked the idea of a family tree, I didn’t have a need for one until I started plotting the Cimarron Creek trilogy.

From the beginning, I knew that my fictional Texas town would be founded by two families from the North and that there would be multiple generations involved in each story.  While I wasn’t writing a saga, there were enough characters involved that I had the excuse I needed to create a family tree.

And so, I did.  Here’s a simple version of the first tree.



The Process

How do you start to create a family tree?  In real life, you collect information about people.  It’s a similar process with fiction, only you get to decide what the facts are.  As I thought about Cimarron Creek, I began asking questions.

Who were these founding families?  Although I could have had the founders be from unrelated families, more interesting dynamics were possible if they had a common ancestor.
When did they emigrate to Texas?  That helped determine their ages as well as critical events in the backstory.  After all, a town founded well after the War Between the States would have had different challenges than one where the residents had experienced the war and Reconstruction.
How many children did the founders have?  While not all of the children play roles in each book, it was important for me to know how many cousins my hero (Travis Whitfield) had and what ages they were.
What were their professions?  Although that’s not something you see on the family tree or any of the related reports, it was a key piece of information, so I added it to one of the reports I’d printed.


You can see that I changed a number of things as I actually wrote the book, including some characters’ names and ages.  Like the manuscript itself, the family tree was a work in progress.

The Advantages

Why go to this much trouble?  There are a number of reasons.

It forced me to think about each person as an individual.  While I didn’t include birth and death dates on the chart, they’re part of the underlying database. (More about that later.)
Because I knew a fair amount about each of the people on the family tree, I was able to include “insider” details about some of them in the book.  The result, I believe, was a more authentic-feeling town.
Seeing the chart helped me avoid repetition of names or creating too many characters whose names began with the same letter.  While the character chart I always create for my books is useful for that, because of its graphic nature, the family tree made it easier to see duplication.
The reports I generated provided me with information about each secondary character’s relationship to the protagonist.



Yes, I could have made notes about which people were cousins vs. aunts and uncles, but having the software do the work for me made my life a bit easier, not to mention that I knew it was accurate.  I’ve never claimed to know what second cousins twice removed means.

To Automate or Not

While you can always create a family tree manually by drawing squares on a piece of paper, I chose to use Family Tree Maker software.  (And, no, I don’t own stock in Family Tree Maker, Ancestry.com, or anyone else who’s sold this particular package.)  I’ve used FTM since the days of Windows 95 and have found it relatively easy to learn.  I also like the reports it generates.  While the Outline Descendant report is the one I use on a daily basis simply because it’s so concise, the Descendant report provides an easy-to-understand explanation of who’s who.




One of the advantages of the software is that whether you prefer to start with the current generation and work backward or with the first generation and move forward, you can do it.  You can also start in the middle and work both ways.  Those of you who know me won’t be surprised that I started with the first generation and worked forward, but I’ve used the flexibility of adding descendants on numerous occasions.  And, of course, I like the fact that I can change names, birthdates, and other key pieces of information as my story evolves.

For me, building a family tree was an essential part of outlining this trilogy.  Using automated software made that process easier and resulted in a tree that Revell could (and did) include in the book itself.

Have I convinced you to at least consider creating a family tree for stories that include multiple generations?  If not, here’s one last advantage I found: it allowed Revell to create an interesting graphic for social media.




Don’t you love the different hairstyles for the various generations?




Author Bio:
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a full-time writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.  




A Stolen Heart – Amanda Cabot

Blurb
The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . . 

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancĂ©. 

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

Bestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love.

Join the conversation on creating a family tree! One lucky commentor will get a copy of A Stolen Heart of their very own! Remember to stop by and check out the Weekend Edition on Saturday!!

Social Media Links
www.amandacabot.com
https://www.facebook.com/amanda.j.cabot
https://twitter.com/AmandaJoyCabot/
http://amandajoycabot.blogspot.com/

Buying Links
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors




117 comments :

  1. I love family trees. Nora Roberts was one of the first authors I recall doing this with her MacGregor Family history.It really makes a connection with readers. MacGregor Family Tree

    This is actually something we should use with our series books on our websites. More fun! You've given me all sorts of great ideas!

    And congratulations on this latest release. I am in awe of how you slip between contemporary and historical writing, Amanda!

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    1. I got the idea of using a family tree from Nora too. I planned my first series that way.

      ~ Renee

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    2. Tina -- Since I read a lot of historicals, I saw family trees way back when (and no I won't say how long, but it was before Nora started to write). I love the visual reminder of who's who that a family tree provides.

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  2. Amanda, you've convinced me! I have a fictitious ranching community founded by several families. For this town, I start with the present and work back. I had a lot of fun detailing my current hero's family. I will look into that software. My sister-in-law used a version of it.

    Your blurb is intriguing. Lots of long-distance fiancees probably faced similar circumstances. Made me want to read your book. -:-))

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    1. Laura, I'm intrigued by the software as well. I plan to check it out.

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    2. I used to draw my family trees manually, but once I discovered Family Tree, I decided to automate the process. That's a vast improvement!

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  3. Amanda, I used to read big family sagas as well! I got hooked on them when I pulled one off my husband's grandmother's bookshelf. I can't even remember the title, but it was a huge book that covered generations. :)

    Thanks for the idea to actually draw out a family tree! I've never thought to do this.

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    1. Missy -- If you do draw the tree, I hope you find the process as helpful as I did.

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  4. Hi Amanda:

    There is a writing theory that states that if you create a family tree and go so far as to interview your characters finding out all about them including such things as their favorite color, then even though you don't use 95% of the information collected, your story is still more solid than one written without this preparation.

    What do you think of this theory?

    I believe this theory is true and that often I believe I can tell such a story because the writer's voice seems much more confident.

    BTW: you have my favorite dress on the cover of your, "Waiting For Spring". If you ever get to wear that dress to a writing conference, I think it would be the hit of the event!

    Please enter me in the drawing for your new book.

    Vince

    P.S. Louis L'Amour wrote my favorite family saga, "The Sacketts". A great saga does not have to be romance. :()

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    1. The Sacketts were one of my favorites too.

      ~ Renee

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    2. I agree completely with the theory, Vince. Understanding your characters is simply another kind of research, and as with most research, the majority won't find its way into the finished book, but the fact that the author knows so much shows in the writing and gives it authenticity.

      As for the dress on Waiting for Spring's cover, I wish I owned it, but I don't. I did, however, make a similar gown to wear to various booksignings and -- as you predicted -- it drew a lot of attention.

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    3. Hi Amanda:

      As a marketing guy, I'd have that dress made for my wife/author. Great investment. Also at book signings many readers are uncomfortable not knowing which woman is the author and feeling like they should not interrupt when who they think is the author is talking to other readers. (Little do they know these are the author's friends!) If you wear a stunning period dress, these readers will come right to you! A really nice vintage dress might work just as well. But if the dress is on the cover of your current book, there's a talking point that we Toastmasters call an 'icebreaker'. Also it's a great reason to have your picture taken with the reader holding your new book! That picture should also generate a lot of good word of mouth.

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  5. A family tree would be a great tool to have when writing across generations and families. As a reader I love it when family trees are actually included.

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    1. Mary -- Some of the early reviews of A Stolen Heart echo your comment about including the family tree in the finished book. I'm so glad Revell did that.

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    2. As a kid I enjoyed it when a book had a family tree in it - or even a character list - and I still do! :) I think that is why I have so much fun writing about characters in my reviews. As a reader it helps me get into the world of the characters.

      And then as a writer it helps me understand more about the characters.

      What Vince said is so true - I used a software called YWriter (free for Windows) before I used Scrivener (paid for Windows or Mac). In YWriter, I would get super focused in the character creation section, dreaming up likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, pet peeves and favorite hobbies.

      At times I would actually start to write scenes for the story in the character section because of something inspiring me! lol. It was fun and helped me developed the whole cast I was working on. =D

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    3. Just seeing a family tree diagram is like catnip to a Saga fan. It may be the best way to let the reader who would love your book know instantly that it's something for them! The most likely buyers are the low hanging fruit and you just have to let them know when it's a book for them.

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  6. I've tried sketching out a family tree in the past and what it did for me was make it easier to keep track fo who's who. I think the software program would be extremely helpful. I too love it when a family tree is included in a book.

    I love the cover of A Stolen Heart. I would love to win a copy.

    B;essongs,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Cindy -- I put family trees in the same category as maps, in that they provide me a visual tool when I'm writing.

      Isn't the cover wonderful? I did a whole blog on how it was created. I tried to past the link here, but for some reason, that's not working. Sorry!

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  7. I've never attempted to creative such an extensive family tree, but it seems that using the software would make it much easier and more efficient. Thanks for sharing, Amanda! I love the cover of your book!

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    1. The software definitely helps. It's like most software -- there's a learning curve, but once you conquer that, you 'll wonder how you lived without it.

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  8. Hey, AMANDA, welcome back to Seekerville, girlfriend!! And VERY interesting post!! I, too, love family sagas, probably because it was a way of correcting my own dysfunctional upbringing as one of thirteen children.

    Ahhh, a family tree! Now WHY didn't I think of that with the O'Connor clan??? I've had a number of people write me to ask me why I didn't do that in my Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series, and the truth is -- I never thought about it and I never expected the family to become as complicated as it is.

    In fact, when I wrote APMP, I never even thought of it as a series, but I didn't want to say goodbye to the family, so a series seemed the best way to do that.

    By the time I got to book 4 in the DOB series -- and had 15 major characters with various subplots, birthdays, anniversaries -- I finally figured out that I needed a decent character chart with birthdays, anniversaries, kids, cousins, etc. By the end of the series, I had 12 cousins/grandchildren who became part of the clan.

    BUT ... I fully intend to write trilogies for each of the O'Connor siblings' children during the WWII era, when each of the cousins would be grown up, so you can bet your genealogy that THOSE books will have family trees in them!

    Thanks for the very interesting post, Amanda -- I need to earmark this one for the future.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie, that is exciting that you are going to do more books about the O'Connors. I love those kind of sagas.

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    2. Julie -- I'm delighted to be back here and am even more delighted that you're going to write more O'Connor stories. Bring on the family tree!

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    3. Hi Julie:

      It's great to hear you are going to do more of the O'Connor saga! These books are not going to become dated. They give a snapshot of history that's fills in the gap in history books. Next, WWII, gave us the "Greatest Generation". I just love Carolyn Hart's "Letter from Home" because of how it shows everyday life in WWII as it was in Oklahoma. I'd love to 'see' the same thing from the O'Connor POV.

      It's not too late to create that family tree for the first seven books. It would make a nice premium for new newsletter subscribers. What if you husband did a family tree with hair styles like Amanda has? Or dresses? (Think of all the dress style changes between 1890 and 1930!) He is a very good graphics guy. These books are keepers so it would be good marketing to think long term.

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    4. I fell in love with the Oconnor family and can't wait to read more about them.

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  9. Hi Amanda, welcome to Seekerville! Thanks for sharing today. I'll consider creating family trees for my characters now.

    Congratulations on A Stolen Heart. Sounds good and I like your cover!

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    1. Jackie -- I'm so glad you agree with me that the cover is a good one. I think it's the best one Revell has given me, and that's saying a lot, since all my covers have been wonderful.

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  10. I've never created anything big enough to need a family tree but maybe this WIP would be a great place for me to start. I love those big sprawling epic stories as well and family trees can be quite fascinating, fictional or otherwise. Great post!

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    1. If you do create a family tree, I think you'll be surprised by how many story lines simply creating the tree reveals.

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  11. AMANDA, welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for this informative post on creating family and depositing them on trees. :-) I love genealogy but the weird thing about my novels is my heroes and heroines seem almost family-less. Parents are often dead and they have no siblings. I'll probably never write a saga, but I need to rethink the lack of family ties.

    A Stolen Heart sounds terrific!

    Janet

    Janet

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    1. Janet -- I've written a number of books with characters whose families are no longer alive. That's the case for the heroine of A Stolen Heart, but the hero -- well, Travis has more than his share of family. That's why the family tree was so important.

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    2. Whether living or deaf, the characters family haf a big impact in their lives. Isn't it fun to make up people?

      Janet

      Janet

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    3. I'm living and deaf. Do I count?

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    4. TINA - spew alert please... lolololol...

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    5. Logic Alert! Tina, "A or B" is true if either A or B is true and of course when both A and B are true. However, if you want "A or B" to be mutually exclusive then it will take more work as in the statement: "either A or B and not A and B". Janet's comment was just fine! I didn't even think twice about it. But then I've never had to read any of Janet's sentences twice to determine the meaning. Nevertheless, what you wrote was funny!

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    6. Hi Tina:

      You're the best sport on Seekerville!

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  12. I loved this post! I have researched my family genealogy, but never thought to incorporate that into my fictional families. What fun! And generated reports?! I've got to check that out.
    A great-aunt had researched my dad's mom's side of the family all the way back to a Baron. I'm working on my dad's side of the family and have it back to the 1600's from Meckbach Germany. Thanks for this interesting post!

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    1. Fascinating, Sally! Someday . . . when I have more time to play . . . I'd really love to dig into our family tree.

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    2. The reports are terrific, Sally. I can't keep track of second cousins third removed, but the software certainly can.

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    3. Myra, I had to get someone to translate the earlier records for me. They came from an archive in Germany, written in Old German. I couldn't even tell what the letters were to use google translate lol.

      Amanda, I'm going to have to give it a try!

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  13. Good morning, Amanda! I love the idea of a family tree. In fact, I created one for my contemporary Hearts of Hunter Ridge (6-book) series that sometimes dips back into the past as part of the current story. It REALLY helps to keep track of the characters, relationships, dates and the names not only of ancestors, but of the current family generations active in the books. Love the extra steps you did for yours, too!

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    1. Glynna -- I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who's discovered the power of family trees.

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  14. Dear Amanda, Thank you so much for joining us today in Seekerville. What an interesting post. I love family trees. And yes, I have to admit I remember those long sagas also with the family trees. I like your points to consider. There appear to bemany advantages and we can always use help in developing those memorable characters.

    Thanks again for joining us. I remember meeting you at a conference years ago. Great to see you here.

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    1. Sandra -- Which conference was that? Maybe we can meet up again.

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  15. Wow. Now I know I'm a slacker... I tend to create as I go and I keep meaning to take time with my own family tree and don't get to it... So if the Hernes and Blodgetts are getting overlooked, the fiction folk are kind of in the same boat... but that doesn't mean I don't think this is a great post on a great idea.

    Because I'm sure it keeps you spot-on, Amanda and how fun is that to not have to scurry around looking for info.

    I'm going to have to see if I can mend my ways.

    But first, I brought COFFEE.... and then I'm going to furrow my brow and think about family trees!!!

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    1. Caffeine in any form sounds good, Ruthie. I'm drinking English breakfast tea.

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  16. Laughing because I forgot to sign into my writer's account!!!! But it's nice of that Blodgett woman to bring us coffee!!!

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  17. I was/am a huge Michener fan. Love those sagas.... and Herman Wouk. Two of my favorite non-romance authors. Such depth.... And I believe they both wrote into their 80's so I've got a long and happy fun time if God grants me that time-frame! Yowza, happy author!!!

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    1. I agree that Michener and Wouk were great authors. I hadn't realized that they'd written into their 80s. Did you see any difference in their later works? I wonder if the perspective of -- I was going to say "age" but decided "maturity was a better word -- changed their writing.

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    2. Hi Ruth:

      How could I forget Michener! But how many editors today would tell him to begin his story on Chapter 5! I remember one big SF author who did a 'family history' tree of the history of the future! It was useful to know what happened when in the future!

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  18. Welcome, Amanda. This was a fun post. I love things like creating family trees, although I'm not writing a family saga where I really need one. But it is definitely something I would enjoy doing.

    Please put me in the drawing for your book.

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    1. Sandy -- I need to warn you that not only is creating a family tree fun, it's also addictive, so start only if you have time to spend. Lots of time ...

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  19. Thanks for being our guest today, Amanda! I haven't had the need to make extensive family trees for any of my novels, but for keeping relationships straight, I have used Scapple (not to be confused with "Scrapple," Mary Connealy!). It's actually a mind-mapping program, but it works well for diagramming character relationships.

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    1. Myra -- I hadn't heard of Scapple, but I need to Google it and see if I should add it to my toolbox.

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    2. Hi Myra: I tried Scapple but I could never get it to print large enough to read it on the screen. I have not heard about it for years now. Do they still put it out? I do have it somewhere. Vince

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    3. I only purchased it a year or so ago, so it's still a "thing." Looks like there's both a Mac & PC version. I use it on a Mac.

      Website: Scapple

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    4. Myra, I like the new you! Lovely pic. Is this the first day for the photo or have I been clueless in GA?

      Don't answer that...

      Hugs!

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    5. Thanks Myra:

      I just downloaded the free trail and it works much better on my big flat screen monitor than it did when I first tried it. I got the beta trail version when it first came out. I think this will work for me. It will be fun seeing what it can do.

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    6. I love Scapple. It's such a help to be able to quickly jot down anything. I haven't been able to integrate into Scrivener. Has anyone else been able to?
      Hugs
      LA

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    7. Hi LA:

      I just did that with my new trial copy. They have a short tutorial and it shows how to do it. I think you have to have both programs on the screen and you have to pull the Scapple copy into the right place in Scrivener. I did it the first time with a picture. If you can, watch the tutorial. It's at the link that Myra left for me.

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  20. Amanda, you're speaking my language!

    I make small family trees, even for my stand-alone books. But when I spent a fun afternoon working on the genealogy for my "Journey to Pleasant Prairie" series from Revell, I discovered that the characters in those books were the ancestors of the characters in my LIH books!

    Once I made that discovery (aided by a name change for one character), I had fun placing the family farms in their locations and figuring out which families were also related by marriage.

    The extended family tree got a bit cumbersome, though. My Amish families have a lot of children!

    But the real winners are my readers. When I take the time to dig into my character's backgrounds like that, they come to life in my head, and subsequently on the page. That's the best part. :)

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    1. Jan -- What can I say other than that you've summarized my post in just a few words? Thanks!

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  21. AMANDA, I love reading family sagas! Thank you for this interesting post.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Caryl. As you can tell, I'm always happy to talk about family trees.

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  22. Very interesting post, Amanda, I love genealogy and learning about my ancestors. I wrote a series of historical romance loosely based on the lives of my 4 sets of great-grandparents. Probably never be published, but my family enjoys them.

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    1. Cindy -- How much fiction was in your books? I know virtually nothing about my great-grandparents other than their names and birth dates, so if I were going to attempt what you've done, it would be 99% fiction.

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  23. I don't write multi generational sagas, and have never really needed a family tree for my stories. In fact, more of what I do for my stories (which are often fantasies) is I draw a map of the world that the story takes place in. I love drawing maps, and for my genre it has often the same perks as a family tree. Perhaps it doesn't show the birth dates and names of all my characters, but looking at it you can figure out which country everyone is from and this can help you figure out the history of each country and thus the history of your characters which helps provide some of the history of my fictional world.

    I made a family tree for a story once- albeit a very simple one that only went back to my characters grandparents- but then I realized that I didn't need it for my story. The grandparents were all deceased but one, and all the rest of the family ties didn't need a family tree to show how they were related.

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    1. Nicki -- I agree that family trees aren't necessary for many stories, but maps -- now that's another subject close to my heart. That's why A Stolen Heart has both a family tree and a map in it.

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  24. I can see how this would be extremely helpful in trilogies and even just for books with large extended family groups.

    Trivia: Remember all those sagas that Gilbert Morris wrote, especially the series that spanned from the Mayflower through many years of history? Well, Aaron McCarver was his official "genealogy" expert on on the family history. Aaron was a huge fan of Morris and met him at ICRS one year. He was so excited to meet him, and told him all about some of the main characters and how so-an-so couldn't be so-and-so's great-grandmother, etc. because of the age and time frame.

    Gilbert and his wife were so impressed that they contacted Aaron later and he worked with Gilbert on many books to keep the genealogy straight.

    I hope I didn't butcher that retelling too much on how that happened... going from memory. But I loved hearing Aaron tell about it. Such a wonderful connection between two great men in the Christian fiction community. :)

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    1. I loved the trivia, Pam. Thanks for sharing!

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  25. Amanda, what a fascinating post! I'm preparing a new story, and I've discovered I need to know a lot more about the mother of my heroine. Her mother has some issues that will show prominently in the story, so I need to know why she has these issues. :) I'm looking forward to digging into my heroine's (and her mother's) lineage more than I have in previous books.

    I love that you shared the different things to be considered and how you went about it. Thanks!

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    1. Jeanne -- I'm glad I could help. Discovering backstory is so important to writing the "real" story, but sometimes it takes a while to figure out what caused a person to act the way she does.

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  26. I need to log off and get to work on the wip, but wanted to mention a cute idea that I saw the other day that's related to this topic somewhat...

    You paint a tree on a bare wall and then hang photos of the family on the "branches". The one I saw was way too cute, even with an end table positioned as in a strategic spot. The limbs weren't uniform and neither was the photos.

    I'm afraid if I tried it, it wouldn't turn out anywhere near as adorable.

    You can get ideas for this on Pinterest.

    Okay, out of here. Must meet my word count!

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    1. Great idea for the artistic among us. I'm not one of them and shudder to think what my tree might look like.

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  27. Late to the party for my own guest!! Thanks everyone for keeping Amanda busy.

    When Amanda and I were talking about a topic for her Seekerville post, she mentioned a couple of ideas but my brain latched on to the Family Tree concept. With Ancestry.com and other genealogical sites being touted these days, it's almost a no-brainer we offer our characters a heritage...not to mention keeping family lines straight.

    Thanks for joining us today, Amanda!

    Silly Blogger is not letting me use my profile!!

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    1. Audra -- Thanks again for inviting me to chat on Seekerville. It's always fun to be here, and I LOVE the changes in format so I can respond to each comment individually.

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  28. As a reader, I do like to see the family tree when appropriate. Sometimes I refer back to it when reading too (vs just at beginning). It can come in handy.

    The different hairstyles in your example were a fun touch.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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    1. I can't take credit for the hairstyles, Phyllis, but I thought they were a unique -- and effective -- way to show different generations.

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  29. I've never thought about family trees for books - well, with the exception of Mary Connealy's books. Boy, would I LOVE to see those trees from her different series. Sometimes I get a little lost with all her great stories and think, "now where did that person come from again?"

    I haven't tried a family tree for real life. I was adopted and found my birth parents - I think one of the relatives has done some genealogy stuff. I'm sort of a stray branch. Between my real family and my birth parent families, I tell people I don't have a family tree, I've a family forest. :)

    LOVE this idea Amanda. Must utilize it (or at least keep it in my "toolbox" to break out when needed). Would love to be in the draw for your book.

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  30. What great information, Amanda!

    Love your attention to detail, too!

    Your story sounds like a must read! Along with the entire series.

    I'm amazed at how much you know about your characters and their families. I'm sure all of that info makes the writing that much easier. I find the words flow when I have lots to pull from...although I haven't used family trees. A new tool to include in my tool box.

    Thank you!

    Hugs!

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    1. Debby -- If you try creating a family tree, I hope you find it as useful as I do. It does help corral details about the characters.

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  31. Congrats to the GH and RITA finalists!! Laura and Kara and any others I may have missed!

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    1. Dianna Shuford is a Golden Heart finalist too! Yay, Dianna!

      YAY, Laura and Kara!

      Congrats to all those nominated!!!

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    2. Congrats to all who entered the Golden Heart! It takes a lot of time and effort to submit to the GH. I'm proud of all of you!

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  32. What a fun post, Amanda. Wow, your organizational skill along with your passion make for an exciting family tree. Thanks for sharing it with us. Great post. Cheers

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    1. Marilyn -- One of the great things about creating a family tree is that it forces a bit of organization, even for people who don't tend toward OCD.

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  33. I did make a family tree once. It wasn't a very tall one, but it had a lot of branches I needed to keep track of. Made my story much more detailed, I think.

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    1. The wider the tree, the more you need it. Boo, I'm glad you discovered -- as I did -- that it helps with the details.

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  34. I don't know how many words I've written in Speedbo, but I'm working on the climax of my story now.

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  35. Amanda this is a great idea! I have a file with my town business names, secondary characters, etc. (I got the idea here :-) and that helps me a lot, but a family tree for the main characters would be so cool to do. Thank you!

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  36. Love the blurb for your story, Amanda.
    I've never tackled a saga or written historicals, but the family tree would be a must for me.
    Celebrating, thanks for the motivation, Seekers and Speedbo gang. I met my word count goal two days ahead so will print and start editing my Christmas novelette. YAY!!

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    1. LoRee -- Congratulations on beating your deadline!

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  37. Congrats to all the Golden Heart and Rita Finalist.

    Happy Birthday, Mary Conneally!

    Amanda, I haven't needed to do a family tree, but I love it when I read a book that has one in the front so I can refer to it while I am reading if I get confused with who a character is.

    I have had to create a character list as I am writing a series to keep the characters name the same between books. even a minor character,

    I went to the doctor. The doctor put me on some major meds and ordered me to rest. I will try. Perhaps I can catch up some on my reading. I will continue writing but I am sure sitting at the computer for long hours would not be considered resting so I will set a timer and do it in short time sprints like 15 -30 minutes. I wonder how many words I can get down in that time? The Lord is in control and has allowed this for some reason.

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    1. Wilani --I'm sorry to hear about the need for major meds, but I've heard that writing in short sprints works well for many writers.

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  38. Amanda, your post was such a relief for me. I thought I was the only one who had a family tree for my characters!

    Assembling the family tree for four generations caused me to think through why the characters were certain places when they were, how contemporary times would affect them, how birth order might affect them, what their motivation would be for living different places, marrying certain people, what their goals were, on and on.

    Thanks so much for your post!

    Nancy C

    P.S. I grew up reading sagas that had family trees, too :-)

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    1. Nancy -- Nope, you're not alone. I find family trees invaluable for all the reasons you listed.

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  39. Wow, Amanda! I use scapple which has bubbles I can make and I do a very superficial time line, but this is quite impressive. You never do anything in half measures :)

    I'm starting a Cozy Mystery Series and thinking now that I've read your reasoning, I might need to tackle something like this....we'll see by Christmas of 2017 if I've started.

    So good to see you here.
    Hugs, L.A. aka Leslie Ann

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    1. L.A. -- I can't wait to see how you fit a family tree into a cozy mystery series. I have to admit that I've never seen one in a mystery, but there's certainly no reason why it wouldn't work.

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  40. I've never thought about doing a family tree for my fiction work. I know my characters immediate family but not much more than that. I am going to go back to my WIP after Speedbo and look more into that. Thanks for the great information. Oh, and I love the premise of your new book Amanda. :)

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    1. Loraine -- Sometimes the immediate family is all you need to know. In that case, I wouldn't spend any time even thinking about family trees.

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  41. Amanda is not just a talented author, she's an amazing person. Always ready to help other authors to improve their craft and grow. Thank you for all you do, Amanda!

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  42. I loved Gilbert Morris' Winslow Saga. I found the family tree helpful. I have to ask do you use Family Tree Maker for your own family tree? We do. Not sure we could add a fake tree in our present program which is the older version as well.

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    1. I do use Family Tree Maker for my own family (both sides). It's easy enough to have multiple files, one for each family, so that's what I do.

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  43. Wow! This blog is a blessing! Ironically, my wip is about a concierge genealogist and my plot includes developing family trees. Been using paper but will look into the app. Would love your book!

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    1. Olivia -- I'm glad I could help. Ironically -- or maybe not -- a couple came to my door yesterday, asking if I wanted to join a genealogy club.

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  44. One of my paternal grandmothers nephews wives did a family tree going back 8 generations interesting to read that all the men were fisherman back then.

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    1. Kim -- One of my cousins traced our family back to the American Revolution, but her research showed only critical dates, not professions. I wish I knew what the various people did while they were alive, but that information isn't included on her charts.

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  45. I have a family tree for both sides of my family...one's roots in Ireland, the other in the Netherlands. What fun! And yet, I've never created one for a book. I've gone back to grandparents, but nothing more. This was a great inspiration to do so. And yes, I LOVE the hair styles on the family tree. Adorable!

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  46. I love seeing a family tree in a book that is either a series with multiple family members, or talks about multiple generations in one book. I'm also interested in genealogy--my sister and I love researching our family history. I believe it is important to know where you came from, and you never know what you might discover about your roots! :)
    Please add my name to the drawing, I'd love to win! Thanks!

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  47. I've used MyHeritage Family Tree Builder for at least three novels - all still in progress. Two are mysteries that involve family ancestors that are relevant to the main plots, so knowing my relations and characters helps a great deal. I even interview the main ones.

    Just tackling an alternative history set in 2020, but with the initial event and the initial ancestor dating back to the Vikings settling in Canada in 1000 AD. Knowing how the family came about is crucial but very complicated as some relations are back in Europe. The tree will be invaluable.

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  48. I always appreciate it when an author shares the family tree with readers. I often go back to check on how a character fits in a storyline and this helps tremendously!
    Thanks Amanda and Blessings!!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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