Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: character development

Series ends

No, not mine. This post actually came about because I read a book last night that represented the end of a series. Usually, if I’ve stuck with a series all the way, I feel regret to see it end. In this case, not so much. The reasons why are things I hope I can keep in mind as I work on my own series and bring them to an end.

I’m going to start by noting that this series is one of several from a best selling and traditionally published author. I started reading this particular series from her by accident. How, you ask, did that happen? Easy. I wasn’t careful when checking her Amazon author page and wound up buying one of the books in the series when I was actually looking for a book in another series.

That’s problem number one. The series titles (two different series) were close enough to cause confusion, at least to a sleep addled, pre-coffee brain. But, that’s okay. I enjoyed the book. Not as much as others she’d written but not every book can be hit out of the park.

Anyway.

What I came to wonder as I read the books in this particular series is simple. The series was set in the same town as another series. The characters from that series made appearances in the new series. Some of the characters in the second series were related to characters in the first.

Okay, that’s fine. I’ve seen it happen before and it has been done well in some cases and not so much in others. This series, unfortunately, would have done better (in my opinion) by completely removing it from the first series. There were simply too many similarities between characters and plot points. Add in the same basic setting and, by the end of the series, it felt as if the author was just phoning it in.

I get falling in love with your characters or setting but you can’t do it at the expense of putting out new and interesting material.

There were two other issues I had with not only this series but the other one. When you write a book, or books, where your lead female character is initially a strong, independent woman, don’t turn her into someone who no longer is capable to looking after herself just because a man has now come into her life. Sure, having a partner, male or female, will change a person’s life and how they think about things. After all, you are no longer the only person you have to think about when planning a course of action. But going from independent to dependent without cause is one of the surest ways to drive readers away.

I will admit, the author didn’t do it as much in this second series as she did in the first. For one, the women in this second series were more flawed than in the first. However, that made it all the more glaring when she did it in the last couple of books with the most independent of her female characters. Especially in the last book. Suddenly, the one woman who had been the rock turned to anything but, at least for the first half of the book. The foreshadowing of the earlier books in the series led to one secret, but it was minor. There had been nothing to prepare the reader for the real “weakness” in the character. Considering the relationship between her and the other characters in the series, this threw me out of the book.

I guess this is all a way of reminding myself of what not to do when I start wrapping up my different series. The last book needs to be as satisfying — if not more so — than the first. Otherwise, the reader will hesitate to buy anything else from that author. I know that, after two series endings that were disappointments because of the way the characters were developed and the plots were rolled out, I will hesitate to buy anything else from this particular author. Sort of the old “fool me one, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” adage. I hope none of my readers ever feel that way.

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Life has been interesting

The blog has been silent for the last several weeks and I apologize for that. I won’t bore you with all the details but life has been interesting and there are just some times when it is best not to say anything. No, nothing is wrong with me or mine — well, nothing that dropping temps below triple digits won’t cure. The simple truth is that I had to pull back from social media for a bit or I was going to do or say something I would regret. This political season seems to have brought out the worst in everyone. Making matters even worse is that it doesn’t seem limited to just politics. It is as if some cosmic force hit most of humanity with a stupid bat. Or maybe a contrary bat. I’m not sure which but I swear almost every ounce of common sense seems to have gone down the drain. So has common courtesy.

So, instead of going ballistic here or on FB or elsewhere, I stepped back. Yes, I’ve been busy. I have to start out by giving kudos to everyone who helped with the Bedford (TX) Library Friends book sale this weekend. The sale was a roaring success and well worth all the hard work everyone put in on it. For those of you who live in the DFW area, if you haven’t discovered the Bedford Public Library, take a few minutes to do so. I think it is the best library around and the staff is the friendliest and most helpful there is.

I’ve also been busy on the writing front. The draft for Dagger of Elanna the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is finished. I am working on the second draft — which is usually what goes out to beta readers. I hope to have it done by then end of next week. I have also finished the outline (something I rarely do to the detail it happened this time) for a novel that will sort of bridge Slay Bells Ring and Skeletons in the Closet. This novel uses characters from both and brings in some of the supernatural/paranormal elements from Skeletons. I know. I know. My muse is strange but this is the book it demanded I take time out to get the details down before I could go back to Dagger. I also have Victory from Ashes, the final book in the current story arc for Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), plotted out. So there has been writing going on — plus I have been editing a wonderful first novel by a friend of mine. More on that after I send back the edits (hopefully this weekend).

Oh, I have also done a lot of reading. I highly recommend the latest in the Monster Hunter International series. Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. I had been looking forward to this for quite awhile, ever since John Ringo started posting snippets on FB. Yes, my friends, this is what we have all been looking forward to — and what a certain group of folks have dreaded. John Ringo and Larry Correia have joined forced to product Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. It is a great read, lots of fun and, while it is definitely Ringo, it is also Correia. I cannot wait for the next book to come out. Fair warning. I am not responsible for any lost sleep you experience because you can’t put the book down, nor am I responsible for any ruined keyboards, etc., caused during the reading of this book. Ringo. Correia. ‘Nuff said.

I also read a series of books by a well-known, non-Baen author. While most were enjoyable, I noticed something that really bothered me as the series progressed. The women in the books, each book featured a different member of a close group of women as one of the two main characters, started out being competent, strong and still women. They weren’t “men with boobs”. Initially, they didn’t need a man to “save” them. But, as the series went on, even the strongest of the women turned into something I kept expecting to have the vapors and faint dead away in an oh-so-ladylike swoon. As this happened, their male counterparts became more alpha — to the point where they weren’t particularly likable.

In some ways, reading this series was like watching a train wreck. You know it isn’t going to get any better but you keep hoping. Then you get to the point where you don’t want to look away. You want to see just how bad it will get. Then, that part of your brain that reminds you that you can learn even from badly crafted writing, you keep reading and making notes so this doesn’t happen to your books.

What I did like was the way the author made the setting and the town itself something close to characters by the end of the series. But I found myself not cheering the leads in the last few books. That’s a hard thing for me to excuse, especially in books where you are supposed to identify with the characters, when you are supposed to hope everything works out for them in the end. Instead, I was really hoping for a precision missile strike.

Characters are supposed to grow. They are supposed to meet challenges and sometimes make mistakes. They have to stumble and even fall on occasion. But you don’t take strong characters and, without explanation or warning, turn them into wilting flowers who need someone to protect them and stand up for them. If, in book one, the main lead is a strong, capable woman — be she a cop or computer nerd or whatever — who doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is needed to protect herself or her family/friends, don’t have her waiting behind like a “good little girl” while the men go off to deal with the bad guy in later books. At least don’t do it without explaining why she suddenly not only lives with a bunch of macho chauvinists but accepts and likes being “put in her place”. If you have a character who is a medical professional and who is willing to risk her life for a stranger, don’t have her agreeing not to do everything she can to save her sister a few books later because it might put her in danger — at least not without a valid explanation of why.

In other words, this particular author set up a world and expectations for their characters and then broke the rules without foreshadowing or explanation. I hate that. But it did serve as a reminder that it is easy to do — especially if you are feeling deadline pressures and decide that taking the easy way out will be okay just this once.

And now I am back — back to writing, back to blogging and back to being a pain in the backside of my muse.

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