Monday, November 16, 2009

On Marriage and Series

American Gothic--Grant Wood--1930 My husband and I started dating when I was a freshman in college. This will be exactly 20 years ago December 7th and means that I’ve known him longer than I haven’t known him.

You’d think there wouldn’t be too many surprises left, but there actually are. Oh, we have our set-in-stone-patterns most days, but sometimes we shake it up a little. And I think we’re hitting our midlife crises, so we’ve become somewhat more unpredictable lately (my husband has rediscovered his enjoyment of scuba diving.)

But even with some surprises along the way, I can frequently guess what my husband will think, do, or say about a given situation. He does the same for me. It’s very comfortable in many ways. I like the ability to read someone’s mind.

With series, you get to know the protagonist similarly well over a series of books and years. If I met Adam Dalgliesh in the street, I’m pretty sure I’d recognize him. PD James has made sure of that.

Reasons to write series:

For one thing, I enjoy reading series. I’m going into a book with some knowledge. I know the sleuth, I know the sleuth’s personality. I know the sleuth’s sidekick. I know some of the internal conflict. Just bring on the new victim, suspects, and murderer.

It’s easier for me to write. My setting usually stays the same. The constants I mentioned above (regarding sleuth and sidekick) are the same. I even have recurring characters in my books. I’m starting with a bunch of ‘knowns’ to build on. When you’re starting with Book One, you’re making everything up as you go along.

From a purely commercial standpoint, I make more money writing series. And I’m building up a name for myself (on the bookshelves) in the industry.

Challenges in series writing:

Making sure you don’t bore your returning readers by providing too much back story. Making sure you don’t confuse your new readers by not providing enough back story.

Some people don’t enjoy reading series, preferring stand-alones and a fresh story each time.

Not getting bored with your protagonist. And not boring others with him or her. Like a marriage, you really get to know your main character. This can be a good thing….or not. Try to keep it fresh—either by providing your protagonist with new challenges or new characters to interact with.

Things to check:

Is your protagonist likeable? If not, is he or she at least interesting to hang out with? Otherwise your reader might not want to stick around.

Is your protagonist growing as a character? I think marriages get boring when there’s no growth or change. Same goes for books.

Are you a series reader or writer? If you don’t like reading series, do you enjoy writing them?