Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday Musings: When your series changes directions

Happy Sunday.

Was your week good? Hope you found time for fun and creativity. Here's to a productive week.

Last couple of weeks we've been talking about characters and series and what goes into writing these. Chuck Bowie's next question in this theme is...

...If your character or plot is morphing into something else, do you permit it, or do you begin another series?

It depends on if it’s morphing into something I can live with. Sometimes when I find the story morphing into something else it’s because I’ve had a character do something that’s not right for who they are. When I go back and fix whatever that action is, I can usually get the story flow back. Sometimes I like it when the characters go in unpredictable directions. I had one particular scene in Dungeon Raiders (still in edits) that is completely different from what I’d planned originally. A certain evil mage was going to kidnap Olivia and her children and take them to his lair. Olivia’s powerful mentor was going to have to track her down and I was going to go back and forth between Olivia and her loved ones trying to rescue her. When I got to that point Olivia was quite clear to me that there was no way in hell she was going to let some bastard from another world kidnap her and the twins. She further told me that she didn’t intend to need someone else to rescue her. She’d bloody well rescue herself, thank you. There’s now an infamous video in her version of earth with the accurate tag #splatterbox.

I do have other series I want to write with different characters, but by the nature of how I’ve written Olivia’s story, I am not limited to any particular setting. So far she’s had adventures in Denver, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, an alternate version of Earth, a reality television set in Anaheim, and the Amazon jungle. Her next outing is planned to be in New Zealand.

 I'm English so I presume 'morphing' the characters or plot in my series 'into something else', means changing your character or plot into something else.

Before I begin a novel my main characters occupy my mind for a long time, after which I write detailed character profiles for the main characters. By the time I am start writing their story, they only need an occasional tweak.

I don't plan the plots of my series, instead, I put my characters into difficult situations and then allow them to sort out their affairs,

I welcome it with open arms! My latest story started life as a 2,000 word story for my writers’ group which had to include ten unrelated objects selected from a list of twenty. I wrote about a community of garden gnomes and was so taken with the little characters that I included them in the next story that I wrote for my writers’ group, and the next and the next! I began to weave the stories together until I had almost 62,000 words. So, both the main characters and plot morphed and new characters appeared, from what should have been a short story of 2,000 words written to include items such as a toy tractor, a sombrero and a raincoat.

It would certainly never have occurred to me to carry on writing without a gentle nudge from the characters, who seemed to take over the entire proceedings, developing their personalities and the plot, as the story grew.

Growth and development is good, even to be expected, in a long series, but I would start a new series if the story line really wanted to make a major shift even the characters and their history remained the same.  For example, at the end of WAR PRINCE, book twelve of the Star Commandos series, it was obvious the characters would not be going out as Commandos in the future, so I brought the saga to a conclusion.  Should I wish to continue with their adventures (which they will continue to have), I would do so as a standalone book or books.

Permitting characters to have free reign is all a part of the fun in writing for me, seeing where they take me and an idea. I am a pantser after all. As for the plot morphing into something else…that’s a different story all together. There are a few questions I’d have to ask myself before beginning another series.

Question #1…Is this a completely standalone story or the beginnings of something new?

    If yes, finish story and go from there.

    If no, finish story, research and go on.

Question #2…Does the story still fit within the parameters of the current series?

    If yes, finish story and continue forward.

    If no, finish story and move in a new direction the story fits. Including starting a new series if that’s required.

As long as the plot sticks within the given guidelines (for the current series) the story will remain. If the plot has moved outside those areas then it’s time to re-evaluate and possibly start a series.

For me, there has to be more than one happenstance to create a new series. It has to have longevity. However, I do write series based not on characters, but commonalities. A writer who creates series based off characters may do something completely different. The best thing to do is what works for you. I have a series centered around gems, I also have one based on immortals. Those guidelines work for me.

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

If my character or plot started morphing into something else I would start a new series, but that's just me.  My first concern would be not meeting a reader’s expectation since I set the tone of the series in book 1 and would suddenly be hitting them with something too different.  My second concern would be not sticking to the original plot and seeds planted in book 1 and/or subsequent books.  Again, I'd worry I failed my readers expectations.  My suspense/thriller series the Last Cold Case mixes a shot of paranormal in each story. The series is best described as Criminal Minds meets a bit of Ghostly Encounters. Book 1, "Last Summer's Evil" is the foundation. When I started writing book 2, "Last Fall's Hunted" the suspense plot overtook the paranormal elements, but I recognized this, went back to book 1, picked up on some of the paranormal twists and got inspired to include new paranormal details in the second book. It's not that the paranormal wasn't part of the plot, but I was neglecting it. Fortunately, I stuck to my plot outline when writing book 3, "Last Winter's Taken".  I'm halfway through writing book 4, "Last Spring's Stranger" and so far so good. Despite my fascination with the paranormal, perhaps I'm discovering my next novel or series will be pure suspense! I won't know until I write it. 

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

No comments: