Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Writing a Series

I love a good mystery or murder story, and have my favourite authors, many who write in a series format, where the cast of characters remains the same, though the plot and setting may change. Often, if I pick one of these books up, and like it, I go back to the beginning and read them in order.

Here are a few authors who write in a series.
J.A. Jance has one series set in the south west, her character a female sheriff. Another series is about a detective in Seattle. I liked both series as each takes place in a part of the country that I’ve never visited and is vastly different than where I live.

Lee Child writes the Jack Reacher series. You may recognize the name from the movie starring Tom Cruise.

I also like Alex Kava’s series about FBI Profiler Maggie O’Dell.

Then there is James Patterson’s series with detective Alex Cross and the Women’s Murder Club.

And one other example is Lisa Scottolini’s series about a group of female lawyers in the Italian district of Philadelphia.

I know there are many more, but these were the names I pulled from the books on my shelf.

One of the challenges in writing a series of novels based on the same characters, and maybe the same location, is each book must be a good stand-alone read. By that I mean the reader should be able to pick up book #10 and understand the character almost as well as if they had read the books in sequence from #1.

This requires a lot of back story. The information that needs to be told about the ongoing characters’ past, the how and why of who they are. But, if you read all the books in the series, you know this stuff. The writer must give this information in each and every book so the new reader can understand the character, and do it in such a way so as not to feel repetitive or boring for the reader who follows the series.

My favourite series is written by J.D. Robb, otherwise known as Nora Roberts. As much as I like Roberts’ work, I was reluctant to try this series because it is set in the future. I tend to stick with novels written in the here and now. But I gave one book a try and I was hooked, and started reading from the beginning.

The first book is Naked in Death, and all the books are titled in the same way so that they are part of what has been called her ‘In Death’ series. The setting is 2058 New York City, the main character, Eve Dallas, a NYPSD homicide detective. The first book was published in 1995, the latest in 2014, yet the time span covered in almost forty books is only a few years, each book a different case that Eve must solve.

The futuristic stuff is interesting, as it’s not as ‘out there’ as what you see in the space shows on television, and with the advances being made today in science, medicine and technology, the changes in the future seem plausible, credible and become an acceptable norm as you read on.

I have read this series in its entirety, some books more than once. I read each new book for pleasure, and a second time as a writer, looking at how the plot is woven, information given and how the characters grow, personally and in their relationships.

As Eve Dallas is such a complicated and conflicted character, I decided to read the series again, and make notes, as a writer, as to how new characters are introduced, how the characters change. I plan to share these thoughts here, without giving away the ‘who-done-it’ outcome of the book.

Consider me a book club of one and this a welcome to join.

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