Keeping the Faith on Continuity

One of the problems of writing multiple stories with the same characters is the need to maintain

coherence and continuity. The stories relate to one another; this is most obvious in the long series

here that works in the Sherlock Holmes AU but it applies in other areas as well. The Christmas

stories share another set of characters from year to year and it is important that the characters

there also remain true and consistent.

There are limitations to this general rule. The girls, Katie and Emily, are married off several times

in the stories. In Girls in Veils, the girls marry dashing military officers or Civil Servants in British

India. In The Wreck of the Orange Pekoe, Katie marries a grazier in western Queensland. All of

this happens in a couple of sentences, just to turn the story off. It’s not important to the main spring

of the action.

Where relationships are important, it’s a little more complicated. In my World War 1 story, A Time

of Shadows, Katie is courted by the handsome German military officer, Dieter von Neurath, in

occupied Brussels. This time the love relationship is very complicating and adds to the moral focus

of the story. Katie is really attached to the man and he to her. He’s the better for it; it is Dieter who

warns the girls of the impending arrest of Sr Cavell, giving them time to cross the Dutch border to

safety. As I was writing the story, I was very conscious that Katie might not feel very comfortable

that her romantic life was the stuff of the novel and formally asked her permission to continue. Yes,

she finally agreed: Katie was cautious but happy to trust the storyteller . I can remember reading

the story to her on a winter’s night in a holiday house in Lamington National Park. A fire was

burning in the stove and we were wonderfully comfortable as the sad story unfolded. She was very

shy about it but told me afterwards that she liked the story and the way that she had managed the

German gentleman.

Of course the greatest challenge is in developing the characters of the girls themselves over time.

The girls have grown up through the story telling; they were three and five years old when the first

story was written. Now they are twelve and fourteen. There aren’t any stories with the girls

suffering from teenage angst. They have leapt from a naive childhood in the pirate stories and

historical romance to the confident adults of the Sherlock Holmes AU. I hope people will find their

characters consistent. It’s something I’ve worked hard at achieving.

The simple truth is that the real girls are remarkably like the characters of the stories. Katie is

wonderfully kind and generous. Emily is sharp and more intense. They are lovely young ladies –

but I must be the most partial observer imaginable.