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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Those series that just keep on keeping on...

I’m currently working on the nineteenth story in a continuing series, and last night I wrote a pivotal scene in the book, Wolf Tales 10, between an ongoing character and a new one—my über alpha and pack leader, Anton Cheval and Liana, a goddess who failed at her job so badly she was kicked out of her immortal realm and is having to learn to be a mortal woman.

During the interaction between Anton and Liana, I found myself slipping into their dialogue almost as if I were standing beside two real people. I knew exactly what Anton would say because I’ve been writing his lines now for five years, but everything that came out of Liana’s mouth was a surprise. I learned more about her during their conversation than I knew when I began writing the scene, while with Anton, the fact that his responses were exactly what I expected gave me a deep sense of satisfaction.

It got me to wondering about readers who get caught up in an ongoing series and what, exactly, they look for—is it the satisfaction of knowing what to expect, or the surprise of seeing a familiar character reacting to a new situation? I know that some authors choose a familiar setting and write their stories based on a location (thinking Stella Cameron and her Bayou series in Toussaint, LA or Jayne Ann Krentz’s Arcane series) or they work around an ongoing theme with characters reappearing briefly in linked books. Wolf Tales has evolved along the lines of a soap opera—and no, I’ve actually never watched one, but I think they’re similar—in that the characters may play major roles in ongoing story lines that link from book to book.

Anton Cheval, for instance, has become a powerful leader among the Chanku shapeshifters, an evolving position he didn’t consciously request and hasn’t been voted into, but one he’s assumed by virtue of his skills as both a wizard and a natural leader. He’s not a perfect man, yet he’s one who will readily admit his failings and always strives to do better, and, when he really screws up, we all know that his beloved Keisha will straighten him out. I’ve been surprised by the number of notes I’ve gotten from readers who want to see more of Anton, which makes me wonder what it is about reading stories with an ongoing character.

Is it the familiarity, or maybe curiosity to see how they’ll evolve? Or do readers, much like those of us who write, find a connection to a particular character and just want to know more about their fictional lives? Of course, there lies the problem—after writing about Anton for the past five years, he’s become more flesh and blood than I ever expected. He and Stefan and their mates, Keisha and Xandi, are old friends to me now, and with each new character added to the series, I see the circle growing wider until I have familiar voices and faces staring at me each time I sit down to write. Is this a good thing or bad? Each one of them is an individual to me, but am I kidding myself to think that the same characters will continue to hold reader interest?

Please tell me what series work for you. What character dynamics make for a compelling story, one where you will continue to search for future books because you just have to know what’s coming next. I still have more Wolf Tales to write, and I’d love to go into future books with a better idea of what my readers are looking for next.

Kate Douglas

www.katedouglas.com/eroticromance (for first chapter excerpts)

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