How Much Is Too Much?

I’m one of those people who loves bonus content.

In movies, I love deleted scenes, director’s cuts, and making-of extras.

In books, I love deleted scenes and world-building content. I love reading author blogs and listening to podcasts where writers talk about their processes; how they created their characters, where they got inspiration for their fictional countries/societies, how they grappled with technology issues, etc.

In Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Series, the author/publisher begins each book with a list of the jewels and a social hierarchy. In Seanan McGuire’s October Daye Series, the author/publisher includes a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the books.

Ever since I was in middle school (and first read the Black Jewels series) I’ve wanted to do something like that for my future books.

So, here’s the thing…

I’m a discovery writer, I write a lot of things that get cut out of the final drafts of my novels.

I’ve got a bunch of world-building artifacts (lists, letters, and video transcripts) that I’d like to share with you, my wonderful perspective readers, but I’m not sure if you’d like it. Rather, I think you’ll like it but I don’t want to bash you over the head with it.

The Slaughter Chronicles are set in modern times, mainly in the United States. So you won’t need a dictionary or dramatis personae. However…

I’ve created a fictional “private security” company that kills people who’ve turned into supernatural monsters. There’s a BIG BOSS that rules over everything, there are department heads, there are support staff. There are annual reviews. There are budget meetings. There are Christmas parties. Company Christmas party short stories are coming.

All of these things, while they have come out of my head and I love them, are not part of the main story arc of the series.

Pulling Teeth and Other Stories of the Slaughter Chronicles is a collection of adventures and mishaps that my protagonist, Regina Slaughter, finds herself in before the events of Havoc’s Moon (book one). In this collection you get a glimpse of Regina’s life between ages 9 and 13. In Havoc’s Moon we jump to a more adult version of Regina. She has never been to one of these company Christmas parties and she probably never will (since she’s, you know, a werewolf).

Right now, I’m toying with 3 options:

1: Put everything in the books and hope for the best.

With this option you get all the content in one tidy package but I run the risk of presenting you with stuff that will bog you down and make you not want to read my book or give you stuff you will skip over. I do not want to do either of those things.

2: Put all my extras here on my website in a special section devoted to The Slaughter Chronicles.

This way you can use my website as a reference when you need to and you can get on with your reading in peace.

3: Ration it out and put one or two pieces of bonus content relevant to that particular part of the story at the beginning of each book.

Right now, at 9 p.m. on a Sunday, as I write this, I’m leaning toward a combination of 2 and 3. I want to have a place where everything is collected and neatly organized in one place but I also want to have fun little artifacts in my books.

Do you like extra, bonus content? Do you care about world-building? Let me know in the comments.

Research Road Trip: Queen Whilamena State Park

(I’ve edited and re-published this post from last year because I wanted to add more pictures and remember a fun road trip while I am sheltering in place. I hope all of you who read this are safe and healthy and I wish nothing but the best for you during these difficult times. I love you all!)

Last Summer (as I write this) I drove down to Mena, Arkansas with the intention of hiking in the morning at Queen Whilamena State Park and driving around in the afternoon exploring the teeny-tiny towns surrounding the state park.

The drive down was really pleasant. But then it started raining. Thankfully, by the time I got to the Queen Whilamena Lodge and Restaurant the rain had stopped BUT there was fog EVERYWHERE!

I had not checked the weather on my phone. I didn’t even think about the possibility of anything but clear skies and humid air (Summer in Arkansas, y’all). But that is not what I got.

There was a fleeting moment where my heart sank and I thought, “I drove all this way and now I have to go home…”

But then I took another look at the fog, which was literally getting thicker by the minute and I thought, “HOLY SHIT THIS IS PERFECT WEATHER FOR A HORROR NOVEL!”

I mean look at that! That’s amazing!

If I’d gone on a “normal” day I’d have hiked, got some nice pictures of trees and buildings, and gone home with nice things to think about but this–the fog, the rain–gave my setting character. Or my setting looked at me and said, “Acknowledge that I am a force of nature!” while slapping me in the face.

And there was this really nifty fungus on the trail that was all glistening and fleshy. I almost walked face first into a MASSIVE spider webs trying to photograph it.

A new beginning to Havoc’s Moon bloomed in my mind. I got to make rough stage blocking for an action scene and took pictures of this one specific outcropping from multiple angles for reference later. I was so inspired IT WASN’T EVEN FUNNY!

So the moral of this story here is think about what your setting is like in bad weather. You never know what will happen. But also, it’s important to visit, if you can, where your book is set because you’ll get to think about concrete details you may not have considered from your chair at your writing desk.

And I learned that my main character’s favorite food is not pizza like I thought it was, but fried green beans.

You never know what’s going to happen when you go out on location.

Good luck and happy writing!