Friday, May 13, 2011

Series Characters - Who makes the cut?

When Larry and I started our story, it was for fun. We made up the oddest, grossest, most colorful characters we could envision. We didn’t think ahead to character development or plot. And completing a novel certainly hadn’t entered our minds.
So now that we have finished and are discussing the next book, I’m thinking about serial characters. Which ones should we use? The most likable, of course, but likable to who? At the critique group, one of the members said, “I hope Tony is in the next one.”  Tony’s a bad guy, but apparently an entertaining one. And I agree—he should go in. He’s fun to write.
Certainly we should choose characters likable to our readers, but we have a very limited number of those at this point. What if a broader audience feels differently?
            Is that what happened to my reading relationship with Tess Gerritsen when she went from stand alone novels to the Rizzoli and Isles series with a character that just grates on my nerves? A series with a character that I have difficulty liking and everybody else thinks is great? So great, in fact, that there’s a TV series?
            Does my taste suck?
            Maybe, but I hope to learn from authors I admire, such as Robert Lynn Aspirin and Tim Dorsey.
Aspirin wrote the Myth Books back in the 80s. I bought every single one, and I wanted to write just like him. The characters where a riot, the situations they found themselves in made me laugh out loud, and the humor remained consistent to the end of the book.
            Dorsey is another author who is consistently hilarious. Last night while reading Stingray Shuffle, I had to put down my Kindle until I stopped laughing. I’m never disappointed in his slapsticky stories or his characters, particularly Serge A. Storms, who is the funniest serial killer to hit a novel, EVER.
            I would very much like to emulate those authors, not necessarily in their style, but in their consistency. It would make sense to me that what brought a reader to you in the first place should be status quo. Don’t experiment or get all literary or chick flicky. Entertain me. Make me laugh. Make me want to save your books on my shelf for rereading. In the last two decades I’ve read every one of Aspirin’s Myth Books at least ten times—if not more.
            Why do I keep going back to those old, tattered, yellowed gemstones? Characters I love and super-fun stories. I read to be entertained, and I want to do the same for our readers. I firmly believe that characters make the story, therefore, we have to choose the best characters for our next book if we want to hold our readers and give them the best possible experience.
            So yes, Tony will definitely make an appearance. That just leaves picking a protagonist.
            Or creating a new one.


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