Writing a mystery or suspense series is an interesting thing. On the one hand, it’s nice to know your character(s) so well. On the other, you are forced to sweep aside the other stories and characters swirling around in your head, saving them for another day. Still, not a bad problem to have.
STAY OF EXECUTION, due out VERY soon, is the second in my Detective Cancini series. To be honest, I didn’t create Cancini to be part of a series. It just happened that way. His role in the first book grew bigger with each draft until he became a full-fledged protagonist. I decided to build the second story around him. That decision was validated by readers’ response to Cancini in A GUILTY MIND. At book clubs and in reviews, I heard, “More Cancini!” I’ve already begun the third (but final) in the series, THE LAST SIN.
As a reader, I love series. One of my all-time favorites is the Robert Ludlum Bourne series (long before the movies!). Jason Bourne was a character many readers wanted to know more about and thankfully, Mr. Ludlum gave it to us. Other popular series are the Sue Grafton Alphabet Series, James Patterson’s Alex Cross books, and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer books. Stieg Larsson found posthumous fame with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO books. Clearly, readers fell in love with these enigmatic characters. Cozies also lend themselves well to series.
Still, as an author, a series can be challenging and there are pros and cons to be considered. Here’s how they stack up for me:
- You already have a rich and intimate knowledge of your protagonist. A series allows the author to show the character in multiple situations and relationships. It’s fun to take them somewhere new and watch them grow.
- Readers love series and become attached to your lead character. This adds a layer of responsibility for the author to be true to the character.
- There is no limit to how many books you can include in the series. Think Sue Grafton!
- You CAN take a break. There are no hard and fast rules here. It’s no problem to write a book outside of the series.
- Along with the responsibility to be true to your character is the responsibility to build on your story for the character. Readers who return to your character want subsequent books to live up to or surpass the previous books.
- Authors can be pigeon-holed or too closely tied to their series and have difficulty selling other work.
- Reader (and writer) burnout. I’ve found times when I’m done with a character and there’s nothing more I need to know or read. It happens!
Still, the most important thing in writing a series is to write a good book. Yes, we should be true to our character, but we shouldn’t just pop a recurring character into a mediocre story to fill the series. Our character and our readers deserve better! Happy writing!