Sometimes I wonder why we do it, write, more so, write a series. I personally like books that are a series. If I invest in getting to know the characters and they are well defined likeable sorts, I want to know more. What I’m wondering today is when more is too much. Eight, twelve, twenty four, when is there too many books in a series and does it make a difference how much the characters evolve? I’m really thinking that might be the problem. A few weeks ago someone offered to edit a few pages of one of my manuscripts. That went well enough and as always, expected, I did not agree with everything they said. Too bad for me.
One of the things the editor said was #1, she liked my writing and would be interested in reading more. We all want to hear that. #2, that I write like Ms. X. Now, Ms. X happens to be one of the authors I generally enjoy reading and at first I took it as a compliment. I’m sure it still is however, I’ve started listening to Ms. X’s series again and am back to where I was before in the eh, I can take it or leave it. So I started looking at why.
Ms. X writes a series about a homicide detective in the future. The detective is female and a hard ass. I can already relate and appreciate the strong character. There is also a smattering of interesting characters, both strong and ‘normal’, street smart and geeky. Again, a plus. But as I’ve touched on before, there are some things in the series that puts me off and the thought that I write like this person, has me taking a closer look at my own writing.
Let me explore this a bit. It’s a series, now numbering over twenty seven. At what point is there too many books in a series? One of the annoying little items in the series is the fact that the main character and her main squeeze seem to be able to ‘get it on’ pretty much any where, any time, even right after viewing a crime scene with a mutilated body. It’s not graphic sex, but still, really? I’ve also noted that it is rarely a single murder victim, the detective must always find the murderer before he/she/it, kills again. Really? Not every case a homicide detective works is a serial murder, or just one of multiple victims.
As far as detective books goes, this one isn’t heavy on the cop details. It has enough to keep it going. In fact as I consider it, the author has done a good job at balancing the job, home, and other parts of the plot. She gives enough to keep the mind looking for the murderer, although, in the latter books, she starts putting the voice of the killer in quit a few. Just glimpses.
I’m not entirely sure when I lost interest the first time I listened to these books, but this time, after listening to five, of the latter books, I’m about done. Again, why? I think it’s this…there’s never just one murder. The main character has issues and although she is overcoming them, it’s beyond slow. It took seventeen or eighteen before any discernible progress is made. Nine out of ten of the murderers, does so because their mother/father abused them. And the number one reason I’m tired of this series…. drum roll…the main character never truly grows. I’ve listened to twenty seven plus books in the series and I see very little in the way of growth in the main character.
What have I learned from this? That what at least one of the people I’ve followed into the writing venue had to say was dead on, the characters must grow or the story/series stagnates and you lose the audience. And from my own perspective as a reader, formulaic story lines will only last so long. I dont’ want to know going into the book that I can expect to see character one described as such on this page in every book. That the body will show up on this page and that the supporting characters will appear on page whatever and look like this, in every single book. It’s boring to know that one or about page … another peripheral character will be talked about on this page and the investigation into the murder will start to include technology on page xxx.
Did I fail to mention the names? If you call one character Nelson as a first name and then three books later use that as a last name, guess what, those who follow the series are going to pick up on it. If one characters name is Mavis, a staple character, and then there is a murder victim and the detective goes to speak to the next of kin, don’t name the sister Mavis. Weren’t we all taught this in fiction writing 101? Goes along with not having every characters name be the same amount of syllables or start with the same letter. There are umpteen million names out there, choose wisely. And as much as it pains me, my writer group doesn’t like the name of one of my characters, Dr. Klink, because it reminds them of a character from a television show. I was not thinking of the show, but a co-worker, when I named the character. One of my fellow writers has several of the characters from the Archies comic book as the names for characters in her book. Is that cute or ?
I’m not trying to bash another author. My intent is to learn from this author and perhaps, pass that knowledge on to someone else. Once published, I look forward, somewhat, to someone else reading my works and say, she thinks she’s so big that she can do whatever she wants in her books and the publisher will buy it. Well, yes, yes I do. Until that time comes, I am going to continue to learn my craft, make mistakes, and look to the future.
What are your pet peeves when reading? What advice can you offer me? Go ahead, don’t be shy. I expect a comment. Thanks.