Creating a story is more than moving through plot points to reach a satisfying conclusion. Readers also want to connect with the developing characters, which is why I believe serial stories maintain such a grip on us.
When I’m involved in a series, I’m scanning mystery magazines and author newsletters looking for upcoming release dates and then penciling them onto my calendar wish list. This behavior isn’t new, and I’m not alone. In 1841, when Charles Dickens published The Old Curiosity Shop as a weekly serial novel, his New York fans stormed the wharf when the steamship bearing the final installment arrived, shouting: “What happened to Nell?” from the dock.
Once a year I re-read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to revisit The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and I rip through Dorothy L. Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels. I’m delighted whenever a secondary character pops up with a surprising bit of narrative exposition. Who doesn’t adore hearing an update from Irene Adler or even more dithering banter from the Honorable Freddy Arbuthnot?
If I need a touch of Florida noir, I reach for John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee. Louise Penny and her Chief Inspector Gamache magically transport me to Quebec and The Three Pines community. Edith Maxwell’s Rose Carroll and her Quaker Midwife Mysteries warm me with an historical perspective, and when I crave a hometown dose of rural Pennsylvania I touch base with WWK’s own Annette Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers and Police Chief Pete Adams. These characters are my staunchly reliable fictional friends.
True, plot twists and surprise reveals are fun, but character development can satisfy your soul, especially in these days of Covid-19 social distancing. Online Zoom birthday parties and happy hour congregations are all well and good, but I’ve been missing the personal element, the lunchtime get-togethers with my family and friends. To fill this temporary gap, I’m using my cancelled conference registration fee money to buy more books.
What new series and/or characters can you recommend, and why?