The 20 Year Old Hamster

24 Feb
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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….

6 Responses to “The 20 Year Old Hamster”

  1. Selena Robins February 24, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Good post! I stopped thinking about Rex at Book 15. But I have discovered another series which is similar to Stephanie Plum, called The Rock Chicks, similar in character and tone, but these characters move on, make decisions and each books has its own HEA, even with the characters crossing over. I think Rex should be inducted into a world record book. LOL However, with the Plum series, the books in between are only a week later, sometimes a day later, so I think Rex is still pretty young. ;)

    • nancyelauzon February 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      That’s true, he just seems really old, LOL!

  2. Jewel Divas Style February 25, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    Trixie Belden was somewhat similar. Although she aged across 38/9 books they certainly crammed a lot of mysteries into two years worth of birthdays. She didn’t quite get from 13-15 and must have been solving a mystery every week. I remember what I was like at 13 and certainly can’t see myself traipsing across the countryside solving mysteries. Fun fiction but certainly not reality.

    With Nancy, publishers clearly wanted to branch out. First the Files, then Hardy crossover in the Super Mysteries, then On Campus, River Heights, then The Notebooks came along after the other series carked it. They obviously wanted to appeal to 8 year olds as the Files appealed to adults and the Series appealed to teens. Notebooks finished and Clue Crew replaced it with almost the exact same stories. Even all the graphic novels have fallen by the wayside. The series stopped and then continued in Girl Detective but it wasn’t the same. Neither are the Diaries. Nancy of old is long gone!

    And I think that’s what some series just rely on. Even though the seasons change there is something about the constant age that appeals. They’re for kids essentially and ongoing series can only stay the same age or grow up. Clearly Harry Potter had to age because he went through high school, so he clearly could not stay the same age.

    I’m wondering if Nancy will even sustain for too much longer as there have been too many changes in the last ten year. Will the old bird even make it to 100? Who knows!

  3. Jeyna Grace February 25, 2014 at 2:16 am #

    This left me with one thought… if only there was a publisher that published books to make dreams comes true as well as showcasing good stories, instead of seeking profit all the time.

    • nancyelauzon February 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      That’s the crazy world of publishing … they have to make money and at the same time produce good fiction. Unfortunately, the two don’t always come together. Thanks for stopping by!

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