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Now that the Darcy Farthing series has ended with the sixth installment, Currents of Sin, I turn to my files of possible subjects for future novels. There are so many ideas there, ranging from a futuristic story of war in the western U.S. when the ground water finally disappears, to a historical novel set in Biblical times.
As a lover of mystery series, I am drawn to the opportunity to write about the lives of characters over relatively long time periods. The possibilities for what can happen to them are endless--just as in real life. Above all, I do like to write realistic scenarios both pleasant and disturbing that describe how lives evolve. But, a series presents challenges, not the least of which is to write each installment so that it can also be read as a stand alone. Reviews of my books provide an interesting mix of opinions on whether the information provided to catch up a new reader is too much, too little, or just right. This just goes to show that every book touches every reader uniquely. I think this means the author must find their own balance in how much background to present, and hope for the best.
I've thought about the many pleasurable hours I spent reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, and how each book had to recap what took place in previous books, while introducing new characters and plots. This is extremely helpful if one reads the long stories years apart and doesn't have full recall of the details. This is where readers of series are willing to rehash some old material in exchange for the delicious experience of the new, but how much is enough for new readers? The phrase, you can't please everyone, comes to mind. Being mindful of readers' past comments helps guide the amount of background I include in each installment.
Also, how many characters can an author describe in the story without creating confusion? Again, I think the answer depends on the types of novels the reader is used to, including level of complexity. I just finished reading an enjoyable Kathy Reichs "Bones" book that had a lot of characters and required my full attention to keep them straight.
In my second novel, Currents of Vengeance--a true sequel, the front matter included a brief description of the characters. A number of them appeared in both books, and some from the first book who were now deceased had to be discussed in the second. Readers feedback on this method, indicated that the list of characters was very helpful.
I'm pondering these questions because I'm drawn to series development, and I favor novels with multiple plots, and numerous characters. However, I've been thinking it might be time to try a one-off novel. If I'm not happy with the experience and believe the new characters had more life left in them, well, I can always write a sequel. Besides, as we all know, there are thousands of ideas for stories and characters just waiting to be flushed out in the future.
Currents Deep and Deadly: Darcy Farthing Adventure Book One
Currents Of Vengeance: Darcy Farthing Adventure Book Two
Current Assets: Darcy Farthing Adventure Book Three
Alternate Currents: Darcy Farthing Adventure Book Four
A Current Deception: Darcy Farthing Adventure Book Five
Currents Of Sin: Darcy Farthing Adventure Book Six