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
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.