Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Not Dead Yet
I’ve been thinking about characters lately. Mostly, I think, characters you can’t let go of, either as a writer or a reader. I think people differ on whether we get attached to characters and want to read book after book including the same ones, or whether we prefer to start fresh each time. I can definitely see the economy of it as a writer—you have flushed out a character who is vivid and reacts predictably and can be thrown into a new situation. It would be tempting to use them again and again. And then I think of Misery—the author so sick of his character that he kills her, only to have psycho fan go ballistic on him. I’m wondering if there are features that are different between people who prefer repeats, versus people who don’t really like them, both as readers and writers. I can get attached to characters, and love to read a series, though admittedly I lose my patience over the reintroduction of things I already know. I know it is so the book can stand alone, but it still annoys me. I’d like people to just read them in order so I wouldn’t be pestered with such things. In fact… maybe that is a future feature of electronic books—allowing the reader to select (read the prior, read but need reminders, and haven’t read) so that the book gives you the amount of history you need and not all that annoying repeat stuff. Enjoyment is limited though, to one long story that has been broken into books that fall in order. I’m Fresh I’m not a huge fan of reading a whole bunch of books about the same characters in different situations—my reason? I think it’s because I’m a character girl and want a character driven story, not a plot driven one. So either the first book is unsatisfying because I haven’t really gotten to know the character, or the second is repeat of stuff I know already—it is too plot oriented for my taste. I can tolerate two or three books, if the character has some life change (Maeve Binchy has an old woman she’s used a few times, but really shakes things up for her between—that works for me—probably because she successfully develops the brand new complimentary characters really well). Mysteries I can read a couple of, because the detailing is different enough, but I am still probably done after two. It’s funny, because I think publishers feel the opposite, so I don’t know if I am an anomaly as a reader, or if business decisions dictate that diminishing returns on something successful, is at least a surer bet than the unknown. I know it is less work (why else would we have endless movie sequels, typically of inferior quality—though not always). My writing approaches the same way. I’ve been asked if I will use my same characters again and my initial response was confusion. “What? Why would I use these characters? Their story is done.” (Though I do have a vague YA series in my head… a group of girls with a book a year, 8th grade through the end of high school. I think the ‘growing up’ part gives it that ‘life change, development’ piece I need for my character need.) Bring Out Your Dead! On the other hand… sometimes you have a really great character who wound up on the proverbial editing floor. CONFLUENCE has a rock band that once had 5 members. Now it has four. Is Josh, the hot red-headed bass player likely to turn up elsewhere? He might. I definitely can see an appeal to a hot red-headed bass player. He just didn’t have any substantive role in the book, so I eliminated him. So I am polling… what is your reading (and writing) preference? Repeats, or no (or qualified). And do you have ‘deal darlings’ that may just show up at some later date?