Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by mystery novelist and short story author Jerry Last.
The Three Rs of Book Series Characters: Recycle, Reuse, Resurrect
One of the decisions the author of a series has to make is whether or not to recycle your secondary characters through subsequent books. For green-thinking authors, recycle, reuse, and resurrect is a natural answer to this question. If you’ve already invented Joe and Mary, why start over from scratch the next time? You already know what they look like, what they sound like, and a little bit about their character. Who knows, there may be a few Joe and Mary groupies out there who will buy your next book because they want to know whether Joe got his promised promotion at work or whether Mary’s unborn child from the previous book turned out to be a boy or a girl. Maybe Mary can work her way up the literary food chain to star in her own novel some day.
On the other hand, recycled characters can easily become boring as they make their guest appearances in subsequent books. They really need to be there to advance the story, not just to pad out the book length by introducing extraneous subplots centered on them. And if they do show up, readers expect the author to peel away a few more layers of the onion so we get to know them better, in more depth, in each succeeding appearance. A year and a half ago I did a guest interview for Pat Bertram’s blog from the point of view of the character Eduardo Gomez, a Paraguayan policeman who had first appeared in my second novel, The Ambivalent Corpse. In that interview, Eduardo indicated that he wanted to play a bigger part in subsequent books. He gets a chance to do this in Book #4 of the series, The Matador Murder. And we get a chance to get to know him better. There are still some things we don’t really know about him—-but we’ll be seeing more of him in books to come.
Vincent Romero from The Surreal Killer gets a short mention about his new career in The Matador Murder, but doesn’t rise to the status of a major character. He plays a much bigger role in the sixth book in the series, The Deadly Dog Show. It seems that when I wasn’t watching too closely Vincent moved up to Los Angeles, where he now works for Roger’s growing detective agency, supplying bodyguard services to the stars and potentially some spooky stuff in the future. I think we also might want to do more with Bruce the nanny in future books; we’ll see.