A funny thing happened on the way to linking my short stories. I started thinking about them as a novel. Yes, I know that each story has to stand alone, with its own beginning, middle and end and its own conflicts and story arc. But the stories also have to comprise, all together, a story arc for all of the family going through the years.
It is amazing how the idea of the novel has taken over the process of linking the stories.
Suddenly I am focusing on time passing, what happens to each character, how one character's events impact on another's life. Over seventy-one years each family branch in this extended family tree has marriages, births, deaths, love affairs, disappointments, accomplishments. I found that a simple family tree is not enough of a map.
My family map now has notations in each column. What impact does Matti, Anne and Paula's trip to India have on Karen when she thinks about it? How old is Ellie when Karen goes to Africa? What world events impact which character? I fill in the time line for each person and note how old each is at which time, even in the stories in which they don't appear.
This process engages my mind even when I'm not actively writing. I find it is, surprisingly, fun.