IT SEEMS THAT every book out there in the reading world is part of an ongoing series/trilogy/franchise/cash cow. I understand there’s a market for continuing characters and I can certainly see the attraction in being able to return to well established individuals rather than begin all over again but with the literary world getting smaller (thanks to the merger of Penguin and Random House) and yet more competitive (thanks to the wonder of self publishing) it makes me wonder if there’s anyone out there for those of us who don’t want to tell 330 pages of an ever continuing narrative.
The first thing that happened when I finished Lost Angeles and began shopping it around was the question of “what next” came up. I, rather stupidly, thought the question was about me (reinforcing the idea that all writers are egotists) and began pondering what I was going to write about next but it quickly became clear that the question was about the characters, the world in which they inhabited…”what next for the citizens of Lost Angeles? Where do they go from here?” The answer was “well, nowhere because they're imaginary people who populate a body of fiction”. It was quickly pointed out that the ‘nothing, this is a stand alone story’ wasn’t the correct answer which led me to begin pondering what next and against my better judgement I began coming up with what came next. I’ve completed the first draft stage but I don’t know whether it’ll ever make it out, there’s something about having a complete story and not a ‘to be continued’…
The better half was telling me about the problems with the Stephanie Plum novels, the large problems being that the narrative is formulaic to the point of easy prediction and that the characters have never developed. Nineteen books later Stephanie is still terrible at her job and somehow hasn’t been murdered brutally in her apartment – a full arms reach away from her cookie jar. It got me thinking, thinking about these continuing series and how so many of them break what I’ve always been told to be the first rule of writing: write about what you know. How many people know about being a Doctor by day and a Federal Agent by night who’s trying to perform a heart bypass while protect the President? How many have been lusty vampires or the sex slave of a wealthy billionaire? Not only do I not care about writing a continuing series but I don’t care about writing fantastic worlds or exciting jobs, or maybe I do. While Lost Angeles II: Back in the habit (that’s not it’s name but it should be) cools on the shelf I think I might try my hand at genre writing, see if I can squeeze out a piece of fiction with real characters in if not unreal then certainly unfamiliar circumstances. At my film review site Knifed in
genre pieces are some of my most enjoyable films so maybe I’m doing it wrong, maybe I should try writing the book that I can picture the movie being adapted from. I’m off to give it a go but I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be a stand alone… Venice