Continuity. Readers notice everything. Voracious readers especially notice everything in series. If the author makes an error, the avid reader will pick up on it immediately. Finding spelling or grammatical errors are not nearly as jarring to a reader as finding a continuity discrepancy.
Spending time organizing the characters between stories becomes just as important to a writer as doing research. Nothing is more frustrating to a writer than to be writing a book and not be able to remember the name of the butler in the previous book. Keeping accurate records of this information is an important part of setting the groundwork in the novel.
Tonight, I spent seven hours (7) pouring through my first three books in the series writing down every character so I would not have a problem while writing the fourth book in the series. Sounds like tedious work, doesn't it? It can be, but mostly it's rewarding in a perverse way. For me, having all of that information at my fingertips on one chart, is tantamount to having a dictionary available to finding the proper word. Before I got too far into Neil's book, I needed to make sure I had all the names of each character on a spread sheet.
Seeing the connections and family relationships gave me additional insight for the main characters in Ice Moon. Before I could do that, I needed to scan Midnight Moon, Scarlet Moon, and Harvest Moon. The little nuances of each character needed to be noted as well. By doing this, I could make sure I did not repeat characters or names. I remember once reading a book where several characters' names started with C. Every time I saw a name beginning with C, I was forced to pause and reread the name to make sure I knew which character it was.
How do we keep the names separate, distinct, and interesting? Keeping a baby naming book nearby is helpful. It allows the writer to search for names according to ethnicity and meaning to make each character unique. For instance, if the main character's name begins with S, like Selene, you do not want the maid's name to also begin with S. If the two of them are in the same scene, imagine how jarring it would be to your eyes to see Selene and Susanna.
Tell me - what do you do to keep your characters straight? When I first started writing, before I could use a computer, I wrote all my novels in notebooks. On the inside cover, I would write down the characters' names, their ages, and their relationship to the main characters. This allowed me to keep the names straight as well as making sure I did not repeat any names. Also, if I'm writing additional stories in the series, I can just flip open the notebooks to see the names and not repeat any of them.
Do you make a spread sheet? Write them in a journal/notebook? Or do you keep an index file on all names utilized in each of your books?
Happy writing and creating characters!1!!