A 20-year old hamster? Really?
Having fallen in love with the Nancy Drew Mystery Series around the age of 8, I’m obviously a huge fan of series books. Like many avid series fans, I always look forward to the next installment, wondering what new adventures the heroine or hero will come across.
Publishers drool when it comes to popular series books. To a publisher, a popular series (aside from Nancy Drew, think Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, the Millennium Trilogy) is like winning the lottery — the rewards can be very lucrative, not to mention steady.
But how does a writer keep a series fresh and compelling, without compromising the essence of the character that readers have come to love? Do publishers even care whether a series stays fresh and compelling? Publishers are in the business to make money, after all. Is there a danger of publishers churning out series books with no regard for quality, as long as readers keep lining up to buy them?
Do publishers even know what readers want? I’ve blogged about this before. (See Fifty Shades of Rejection). How do you explain the success of books like Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James, which started out as fan fiction and was rejected by literary agents? Or Amanda Hocking, who self-published, garnered legions of fans, and only then was approached by big publishers?
Should a series character grow? Age? Evolve into someone better than when the series began? Or is it only the plot and setting that should change?
Speaking of plot, do readers want to change up the mystery, or are they satisfied with an assembly line of dead bodies? Wouldn’t it be better to have a variety a criminal activities and adventures, like buried treasure, missing persons, sabotage and swindling?
Sometimes a series character will age, like Harry Potter did, and it made sense for his journey and character arc. Other times characters never age, and that works too — like Nancy Drew, who has remained an eternal teenager, with the exception of the 2006 series, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, where she morphed into an 8 year old to attract younger readers.
Should a series keep the reader guessing? Or are we comforted knowing that Nancy Drew would never chuck the mystery she’s working on, run away from home and elope with Ned Nickerson to some remote Pacific Island to open up a Tiki Bar?
There’s a devil on my shoulder that would LOVE to see that happen. Just for fun. Which I suppose is why I don’t write series books, and I base my heroines on Nancy Drew wannabes. I can make them who and what I want them to be.
As a reader, Nancy Drew and Stephanie Plum and Harry Potter must do what they do best, to satisfy my reader expectation.
But the writer in me keeps wondering what would happen if that 20-year old hamster were to finally kick the bucket? Complete chaos? Hmmmm….