Last week Jim, Jordaina, Pauline and I answered questions about our reading likes and dislikes. This week, we focus on our writing. Please let us know how you would answer these questions.
What makes one set of characters ripe for a series? How has the author set up the characters for continuing the story?
PA: A character for a series usually has depth and potential for growth. However, Kinsey Millhone doesn’t seem to age or change much but she remains interesting because she’s clearly drawn and Grafton’s books are well-written.
EBD: The difference I see between a stand-alone book and a series is in conclusions. In a series, the character’s back story shows just enough to further the reader’s curiosity about the character. The main story may also have unanswered questions, which spurs the reader to continue reading the story. Of course, in a stand-alone book, all the major story lines are tied up neatly or nearly so. What I find annoying are obvious hooks to the next book, and this annoyance is a recent phenomenon that I think has come about because of marketing. For example, in Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series, she always came to a resolution of the story and started the next book with a new case. Recently, the series has focused on one recurring villain who Jury can’t catch. Perhaps Grimes was the one who instigated this change, but after three books, Jury still hasn’t caught the guy and the reader is left frustrated. It is also hard for the reader to keep track of the story because since she writes two series, it may be more than a year between books. Ian Rankin’s last Inspector Rebus novel, publicized as his final Rebus novel, he leaves the reader with the villain lying in a hospital bed without a plot conclusion. This tactic is an obvious marketing ploy annoying to the reader, even if we are glad, it really isn’t the “last” Rebus novel.
JMJ: It’s really important not to kill your character off in book one if you plan to make it a series.
Joking aside, I think any interesting character can be the basis of a series as long as the book has not already answered all the interesting questions about the character.
JSR: I think that’s a tricky question to answer. I can only say you have to make the characters likeable enough to want to follow through a series of adventures.
That said, I found Laurell K Hamiltion’s Anita Blake thoroughly dislikable but kept reading until book six because I really enjoyed the rest of the characters.
Are you writing a series or a stand-alone book, and why?
JMJ: Yes. Every book I work on is a standalone, at least until it sells. However, BAD POLICY, my WIP that I will be searching for an agent later this summer or in early autumn and CABIN FEVER, which is in its second draft, have a common set of characters.
I am also sketching out a futuristic novel that will have one character overlap (he’ll be very, very old).
JSR: I view all four of my WIP’s as series, for no other reason than I really enjoy writing all of the characters but any of them could be read as a standalone.
PA: I plan on writing a series but at least the first two books can stand alone.
EBD: I’ve been told to write a stand-alone book first. Then, if it sells, the publisher may want to continue the series, but to write it as a series from the beginning is presumptuous. Of course, I’d love to have a series and that leaves me with a dilemma because I planned to leave one big resolution outstanding. If my concept is found intriguing, then I will let the publisher decide. I can resolve the dilemma if pressed.
What POV are you using and why have you chosen it?
JSR: All are written in first person. Aurora North started out in third person but I felt first person suited her, and my style for her, much better.
JMJ: BAD POLICY is written in first person POV. CABIN FEVER uses first person for the protagonist and third person for four other characters.
EBD: I’ve never written a book in first person, which is strange because a lot of beginning writers chose this POV, but I’ve found it very limiting. In my second book, A Travel Guide to Murder, one of the elements of the plot is timing. My characters are shown in different chapters acting simultaneous to one another, effecting the plot and each other. This timing can’t be shown in first person. In Sparkle Days, I want to show different POVs so that one character's actions impact another’s actions, not timing as much as character driven action. Again, the third person POV is my best choice because it is less limiting.
PA: I’ve just finished a novel in first person and I’m planning my next novel in multiple viewpoints. A different point of view makes for a different story for both the reader and the writer.
What type of mystery are you writing?
PA: I’m writing an amateur sleuth because I feel most comfortable writing this type of mystery and because I feel most able to develop this character.
JSR: A paranormal which has no actual paranormal happenings in it, a paranormal which has plenty of paranormal happenings, a YA urban fantasy and a not YA urban fantasy.
EBD: My first book, Janet: Drunk and Disorderly is a traditional mystery. My second novel, A Travel Guide to Murder, is a comedic romance mystery. Sparkle Days, my third, is a paranormal romance mystery. I love a traditional mystery, but sales are dwindling in the traditional market. Writing subgenre adds interest to the story and expands the universe of creativity because normal boundaries need not be kept and subplots are woven into the main plot just like the back story. There are more layers, keeping the reader interested.
JMJ: Very good ones, but of course, I would think that. A medium-boiled amateur sleuth probably best describes my works. The futuristic novel seems to want to be a thriller.
What turns you off a character after you've already followed them through two or more books?
JSR: If the character doesn’t grow or learn from their experiences or mistakes. To use Pauline’s example, Stephanie Plum is still the same awful bonds agent she was fifteen books ago. I know there’s humour in her ineptitude but when she’s making the same mistakes over and over again it becomes annoying.
I don’t need her to be Bruce Willis, but I do need something to show me she’s learned from the last few times her skips have climbed out the window on her for me to keep reading.
PA: With Stephanie Plum, it was the exploding cars and her sidekick, the ex-prostitute who always wears outrageous clothes and wants to eat junk food.
EBD: That situation usually doesn’t happen to me. I like the character in combination with the writing or I don’t. What sometimes does happen is that I won’t like a first book of the series and then try the second and love it, as if the first book was a trial run for the author. In this instance, usually the subsequent books get better and better. Occasionally, I’ll love the first books in a series, but in the sequel, the writer’s good ideas ran dry. The only time a character turns me off is usually in chick lit when the situations become too inane.
JMJ: I want to read a new story each time building off the characters I have enjoyed getting to know. If a series becomes the same/old same/old, I’m on to something new.
Labels: Paranormal, POV, Series, Writing
Please contact E. B. Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on guest blogs and interviews. October Interviews 10/6 Joan Garcia 10/13 M. E. Browning 10/20 Lori Lewis Ham 10/27 Krista Davis 10/31 Veronica Bond Guest Blogs 10/2 Kathy Manos Penn 10/16 Kate Lansing 10/30 Jule Selbo -----------------------------------------------------------------------------