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Rachel Smythe, Raina Telgemeier, and Kazu Kibuishi talk continuity in series writing

Three acclaimed graphic novelists discuss the challenges of creating long stories

During the Titans of Graphic Novels panel at NYCC, Rachel Smythe (Lore Olympus), Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama, Sisters), and Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet) discussed one of the most challenging aspects of writing a long series: keeping track of continuity.

When Kibuichi began Amulet, whose ninth and final volume is due out February 7th, he had no idea it would go this long. “For Amulet, If I knew I was going to do 9 books,” he admits, “I’m not sure I would have started. Much has changed from his original plans; “the journey extended itself” to more characters and storylines.

But having said that, the conclusion of the series is exactly what he had imagined at the start. “I always intended the ending to be what you’re going to see in the final book.”

For her part, Telgemeier says, “I try to keep my books self-contained stories. I don’t want you to feel like you have to read them in a certain order….I want them to be complete experiences.”

That can create continuity issues. “I will sometimes change the details just a little bit or fudge things slightly so that it still remains a complete start to finish reading experience.” For Telgemeier, that’s not a big deal. But she notes, “The kids do not like this.”

In fact, she says, some of her young readers have taken to creating elaborate charts of when events from different books take place. “Raina was born here and then Smile took place on this day and Sisters takes place here, and I’m like, 'I don’t even know.'”

“I’ll just make myself a flowchart when I’m really old,” she kids.

“Continuity is not my friend, and that’s okay, I’ve embraced it,” says Smythe, who was still very new to longform storytelling when she began Lore Olympus online. “There are things in there, style decisions that I made that I know are smart and were very important at the time, but if you asked me now I’d be like, 'I don’t know,' because it was 5 years ago.”

Today Smythe keeps closer track of events and arcs, and has others who help her track down answers to continuity questions. “But it’s never going to be my strong suit,” she says, and actually she finds that completely fine. “I like to embrace the chaos.”

Disney’s Hercules inspired Rachel Smythe to create Lore Olympus