I love series.
I am one of those women who can’t let go. I have two friends I’ve known for 47 years if that says anything, and I think this is one reason why I write series.
Women, as we all know, unfold like a rosebud…layer after layer…until, at last, we are in full bloom. We are something one day and then something else the next. We are a rollercoaster of emotions, a Botticelli of artistic endeavor, a seven course meal. We are light and dark, thick and thin, coming and going. We can wear more hats, juggle more balls, and accomplish more things in an hour than any half dozen men can even hope to accomplish in a day.
Yet, getting to the core of a woman takes patience and nurturing, understanding and acceptance. Like that rose, we unfurl our petals only when the time is right.
Writing series characters is like that. It takes a great deal of planning, of charting the characters’ destiny through more than just the initial book. We have to know how she is going to grow, when she is going to fail, what she is going to accomplish, and who she keeps as well as loses along the way. We need to know her better than we know ourselves. We need to open that rose slowly so the reader can savor her and the new relationship they will form with our characters.
Because that’s what series characters are for us: relationships. These people become part of the fabric of our souls. We do more than root for them or cheer them on. We feel their emotions, we cry for their losses. We think of them when we’ve put the book down to go to work, and we long to see them again when we can carve out that sliver of time in our day to visit with them and let them take us away from the mundaneness of our lives.
They become our friends.
I started out with the Delta Stevens Mystery Series (www.sapphirebooks.com) that stretched for 7 books and took us from the beginning of Storm’s police career to the very end. I thought of Delta every single day for a decade, but I had to let her go. It was time.
Remember…I don’t let go.
So when I wrote the Echo Branson Paranormal Series (www.bellabooks.com), and I needed a cop, who did I turn to for that role? My dear friend, Delta Stevens. I had found another vehicle for her because she was such a huge part of me that I was thrilled to see her again.
Those of you who read series know exactly what I am talking about. You read series because the characters get under your skin. They make you think, they make you feel, and they become real in your hearts and minds. It is characters who make stories come to life. Plot is plot and stories are stories, but my guess is, if you watch Dexter or Homeland, or any number of television shows, you do so because of the main characters. I don’t much care what Dexter does…I just love being a part of his dark little world for an hour a week.
I read Elizabeth Peters because she writes about Amelia Peabody, an Egyptologist. I buy very few hardback books anymore, but the day hers comes out, I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and I put the book aside until I have time to dive in and not look up until I am well into it. That’s what a great writer does for us: she creates those characters we long to see again. And when that character does something we know is part of her eccentricities, we feel like we are in her inner circle. You can’t always get this in a stand alone novel, but the series character is a study in background and history. We have a history with these women and we love them.
When I wrote Delta’s stories, I had letter after of letter of women saying they would be crushed if Delta and Megan broke up. (At the time, there were few detectives or police characters who were in a monogamous and committed relationship). Delta never strayed, but the fact that readers cared enough to write showed me just how important that particular rose petal was for them.
Since that series, I have written the Across Time Series, Echo’s Series, and the first of the Man Eaters Zombie Thriller Series…and I have to say, my partner of 15 years has to put up with a whole lot of women running around in my head on a daily basis. She knows that I am always thinking of Dallas or Delta, Jessie or Echo, and yet, she knows that, to me, they are as real as my two dear friends of 47 years. She knows that I go to bed thinking about them and whatever predicament I have gotten them into. She knows I wake up some mornings and toss the covers back, jumping out of bed and into the cold morning air because one of them said something or done something I need to get down.
Series characters are like that.
They dig their claws into you and don’t let go.
That’s my goal as a writer. I want them to be tattooed on your heart. I want you to stay up until 2 am finishing the book because you can’t stand not knowing how it all turns out. I want you to think about them as if they were real.
Because in a way, they are.
Anything that can touch you or move you must have some basis in reality, right?
So the next time you reach for a book containing a character you know and love, remember that she is a very real person to the writer who has done her very best to offer you a friend and a companion you can care about and join on an exciting adventure. The next time you visit your favorite character, know that the author has extended to you a white rose that has yet to fully bloom and looks forward to the time when you hold the completely blossomed rose in the palm of your hand.
It’s what we do.
And I can’t imagine doing anything else.