Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where to Start

When starting a series of books, there are two ways to start. With, say, a detective, like Bo is, the series could start with Bo becoming a private investigator. First cases, that sort of thing. Or, the series could start after she's established.

On a related note, I've happened across what may be a trend in book series starting with some very personal change or event in the main character's life. This seems to be more common than something like "The Big Sleep" where the book is just another case, another day. No earth-shattering, life-changing event.

So, when I look at the first book for Bo's novel series, I have to decide to start in the beginning or not. Start with something personal or not. I'm thinking that something personal may be non-negotiable. Seems to me that readers tend to prefer something personal, some reason to root for the character, beyond just another day at work.

The idea of starting a story at the beginning is curious to me. I remember my first days at work, as much as I've tried to block them from my mind. First days, first weeks, hell, with some jobs, it's the first years, are not very good. I don't see anything enjoyable about writing or reading a character fumbling around, screwing up, and otherwise being a newbie on the job. I read to escape, not to be reminded of myself.

Not surprisingly, I started her series later. Past those awkward first days of being a private eye, past screwing up, getting evicted for non-payment of rent, and other problems. Part of Bo's character and appeal-- for me at least-- is her confidence. Confidence is sexy...

But how to reconcile this starting later point with the personal life-changing event thing?

Well, that worked itself out quite nicely, actually. When I first started writing Bo, I always wanted to put her in Michigan. I'm kind of fond my Mitten-shaped state. But Michigan law requires a private investigator to be 25. And have several years of experience. So I sent her to Ohio, which worked out because it is harder to trace a person across state lines. That means I can write Bo's return to Michigan as the life changing event. With some traumatic backstory and some hard decisions.

Only problem was that I didn't realize this trend/ tendency for personal stuff in the first novel until after I had written the first Bo Fexler novel... Luckily, I'm versatile if nothing else. I'll fix this problem.

(Actually, I was in the process of fixing it when my grad school course turned into a Time Sucking Black Hole. =/ Well, break's over. Back to homework.)


pattinase (abbott) said...

The idea of a series completely eludes me. I'm tired of people by the end of a 4000 word story.

sandra seamans said...

I'm with Patti on the series. I like visiting old characters after a break but to write the same one over and over would bore the hell out of me and drain the idea pool way too fast.

As to where to start. Laurie R. King's Kate Martinelli series started with Kate getting a new partner on the police force and her entire life turned upside down by the end of the book. And the second one picks up the pieces of her life. I've only read the first two "A Grave Talent" and "To Play the Fool" but they're both excellent books.