Many of today’s writers write series books with recurring characters. Sue Grafton probably takes the prize for the most books with the same character with her alphabet mystery series starring Kinsey Milhone. Typical readers breeze through these books, enjoying the stories and feeling very comfortable with the characters. Those characters that reappear become the readers’ friends. They know them almost as well as the author who created them.
First, and one many series writers talk about, is keeping all the facts straight. If Kinsey Milhone is from New Jersey, we can’t have her saying she’s from Connecticut in another book. These small details become the bane of our existence as writers. Another challenge is introducing your main character as well as supporting characters over and over. How can we reveal facts and events and people that our readers already know from previous books? Each series book must stand alone. As a Sue Grafton reader, I wasn’t pleased with how she handled this challenge. I skimmed over much of the first parts of her books where she re-introduced characters. Jonathan Kellerman, however, does a good job at this. Each book tells us little more about the characters and gives us previous details in a unique way.
Don’t worry about your previous readers when you begin your work. Begin as if it were the beginning. When you go back and edit, you can consider cutting some of the detail.
They may not need to know everything. Ann Cleeves does a nice job transitioning from Raven Black to White Nights. She had very little repetitive information. I’ll be anxious to read her third book in the series to see if she continues to make that transition so smoothly.
Both those who read the previous books and new readers. Previous readers can help you correct facts that might have gone astray. I thought Jenna had two cats, not one. New readers can tell you when you need to add more information that might have appeared in previous books.
Writing a series for a writer can be great fun. It enables us to really get to know our characters. But, doing so also has its challenges.
If you enjoy series, why not try this first book in the Jenna Scali mystery series.
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