Friday, July 27, 2012

Putting on My Reader Cap - Books in a Series

I'm putting on my reader cap! Hmm, methinks it needs more glitter and sequins.

*tossing on glitter, sequins, confetti, pink flamingos and zombie garden gnomes*  (Pink flamingos and zombie garden gnomes make ANYTHING perfect.)

I haven't done any hard-core blogging in a while, but here I go now! This post is about readers new to a book in a series and was inspired by a comment someone made on a review. In the review, I said I felt no emotional connection to the characters. The commenter said my lack of understanding was due to the fact I had not read any of the previous books in that series and so had no emotional connections to the characters. I disagree; it's the author's writing style. It may be popular with some readers, but not me. I have read quite a few books in a series, books that grabbed me so much I had to go back and read the entire series. Emotional connection in the middle of a series can, and has been, done.

It's crazy how subjective reading is, isn't it?

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to explain what maybe authors can do to grab newbie reader interest for a second, fourth, tenth or zillionth book in a series. I can only speak for myself as a reader, of course, but the more people that weigh in through the various places I post this, the better! :)

Authors who write series face special challenges, such as how to get back story across for newbies without making it tedious for longtime readers. At the same time, they need to give long-time readers enough of the emotional connection they've come to expect so they'll continue with the series, while giving newbies an emotional connection too. I stopped reading Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series a few years ago because I didn't feel the emotional connection anymore. Back story wasn't the problem (except perhaps for that character who came back from the dead)--more focus on the characters' twists and turns and dramatics rather than on the mystery was an issue.

It does seem to me that some (not all!!) authors get lazy as a series goes on and don't work as hard to maintain or build an emotional connection between characters and readers.

The key, I believe, or one of the keys anyway, is unique, 3-D characters. Strong characters too (in their own way). Also maintaining the balance between characterization and whatever started the series in the first place (mystery, sci fi or fantasy for example). If the first few books in the series were mysteries, you may lose some appeal and readers if you decide to go for 75 percent character and 25 percent mystery. Who knows, though, you may gain more readers.

Okay, I guess this blog post didn't say too much. :/  I've never written books in a series, so maybe people who do will weigh in somewhere on how they maintain that balance, or if they do. Readers--you jump into, say, book 5 of a series. What grabs you and connects you to the characters?

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