10 January 2013

Reading a Series: How Much Change Is Too Much?

Earlier this month, I took stock of what I did last year rather than set goals for this year. I needed the internal pat on the back and, more, I needed to find concrete proof that I'd done something in 2012.

This came out in November
Turns out, I did. Three books, 180 blog posts, a comic story, two romance writing conferences, an anniversary trip with the husband, and a family vacation to New York Comic Con.

Whew.

Looks like I better get busy on 2013. I'm working on the next book in the Phoenix Institute series and on a super-secret comic project that I don't want to talk about until a full script is written.

I have about 45,000 words in the new Phoenix book and the rest plotted out. The advantage of a series is that the world already exists. The disadvantage is that I have to make things consistent in that world. Begin as you mean to go on, as the saying goes.

But...

I intended to string the series together by taking a supporting character from an earlier book and making them the main character of the next book. That gives them a nice continuity. SF/F and mysteries readers tends to use the same main characters throughout a series, like the Harry Dresden urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher.  A romance story, however, demands a new couple to fall in love with each book. At least, most of the time. There are exceptions, the most prominent being the In Death series by J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts.

My superhero noir story.
A different couple each story but make sure to have one of them be a familiar character. I can do that.

Okay, I veered from that formula with Luminous but that was a novella, a side story, and readers are forgiving of new characters in a side story.

Phoenix Rising featured Alec & Beth. Phoenix Legacy featured Philip Drake, a supporting character from the first book, and a new character as the heroine.

When I started Ghost Phoenix, I needed a new heroine but I intended to use Daz Montoya, a supporting character in Phoenix Rising, as the hero. Daz Montoya is an ex-Navy special forces guy who was, well, a GUY in the best sense of the word.

Unfortunately, Daz wasn't messy enough emotionally to carry a book. Turns out, he's surprisingly well adjusted. Good for Daz. Not so good for story conflict.

And so the villain of Ghost Phoenix became the hero. He's the brother of the villain who dies at the end of Phoenix Legacy, so there is some connection but bringing in his point of view also brought in all his complicated backstory (he's an immortal) and all of the supporting characters that go with *him* and not the Phoenix Institute.

I traveled a bit farther afield than I originally meant to do. Oops. It seemed to be the right plot and characters for the story. But it is a real shift in focus.

It's too late to stop now but I worry. Will those who read the other two books like this new focus even if I did make sure the Phoenix Institute characters appear and gave Daz a prominent role? Have I promised readers one story and delivered a different one?

I'm worried. But another part of my brain, the part that is okay with starting a manuscript with only a small idea of where I'm going, is saying "trust me, it will work out." I hope that the real hook for readers of a series is my writing voice and world that I've created. I trusted my instincts in creating the Phoenix Institute. Absent other evidence, trusting them again seems the way to go.

I've decided this isn't a deviation from the storyverse,

It's an expansion.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero. Her website is located at www.corrina-lawson.com and the GeekMom Blog can be found at www.geekmom.com


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