When I started editing my third book, Ladies of the Garden Club, I began to think maybe I had too many characters. In my first two books, I listed the characters with a few brief words identifying them at the beginning of the books. I have had positive feedback from readers that they liked that. But as I started the list for the third book, my list is much longer. The reason for this is except for the murderer and the victims many of the characters in my small town of Portage Falls are returning from the first two books. Not all, of course, but many still make an appearance.
The other day I ran into someone who had read The Blue Rose, and wanted to know if two characters she liked would be returning in Daylilies for Emily’s Garden. I had to tell her no, and then wondered if I should bring them back at least briefly in book four. People seem to get attached to certain characters. I know I do in certain series I read, and maybe even more so with my own series.
And that could be my problem. These characters become real to me, and it’s becoming harder to discard them. In Ladies of the Garden Club I’ve compounded the problem by creating a garden club that needs at least ten members. I mean I can’t have only five members, especially since it is members of the garden club who are being poisoned. The Portage Falls Garden Club meets more often because they’re working on a big project. I can’t just have women getting together so I have men meeting mornings over breakfast and coffee at Belle’s Diner just like the men you see in every restaurant all over the world. In both the Garden Club and the men meeting for breakfast, I’m bringing back characters from the first two books, but I need new characters, too. They create new interest plus I need new suspects, not that some of the returning characters can’t be the murderer.
In stand-alone mysteries, the author can walk away from his or her characters at the end of the book. The same would be true to some extent for a PI in a large city. The writer of a PI series would only need to keep a core group of friends or co-workers of their main character.
But I can’t as easily walk away from my characters both because they help define my small town, and because I am fond of many of them like Mayor Winifred (Fred) Partridge or Belle, the diner’s waitress. Yes, a few characters won’t return for various reasons and that’s okay, but with each new book comes brand new characters and many of those I like too much not to bring them back in following books even if it’s only in brief appearances.
Of course, in Ladies of the Garden Club there will be three victims and the murderer so they won’t return. But again I’ve created new characters who are neither murderer nor victim that I like too much to say good-bye to. So I guess my only option when making up my List of Characters at the beginning is to ignore those who appear so briefly that no one would consider them the murderer. And anyone I leave out won’t be. It wouldn’t be fair to do otherwise.
Do you like having characters return in the series you read?
If you write a series, how do you handle all the characters that seem to accumulate?