There are times when nothing comes.
No words. No ideas. Nothing.
This is one of those times.
After four years of blogging, I’ve simply run out of things to say.
But that’s not a choice I can make. Even when there’s nothing floating around in my brain, no pithy comments, no stellar advice, no embarrassing moments to share, I have to write my blog. It’s a commitment I’ve made to you, the reader, to my blog mates, and ultimately, to myself.
I will force the words onto the page, and hope for the best.
Thankfully, I’m not having this problem with the books. Books are fine. Books are groovy. The ideas are flowing non-stop, and so are the words. I’m at that awkward time of year that I’m writing a new book and editing a forthcoming title, which is always hard. It happens every time I’m just getting my legs under me with a story, boom – I have to all stop and go focus on the one prior. This is good and bad.
For starters, I am writing a series, which means the characters, their foibles and triumphs, all build from book to book. It makes life easy because the world is already built, the characters, for the most part, are the same, and I can simply insert them into a new case. But now that I’m six books in, changes are happening. Characters lives are altered.
One of the tricks I was using is coming back to bite me in the ass – setting each book seasonally instead of annually. As a matter of fact, book five begins within a couple of weeks of book four, and book six starts literally a few days after the end of book five. The fifth book takes place over three days. So that’s a lot of Taylor’s world sandwiched into a very short period of time. How much can a character change in three days?
Well, the obvious answer is as much as I want her to. But I’ve always tried to avoid major changes in her life – she is who she is, and if I’m writing her correctly, her reactions are going to be consistent regardless of circumstance. Consistent, in my mind, is good. But is consistent good for the character, the series, the stories?
I guess I don’t have anything to blog about because I am so involved in the decision making process of these two books that it’s taking all of my mental energy.
And of course, now that I’m forcing myself to type, it seems I have a topic after all.
Remember the old tongue twister: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
That’s kind of where I am with my girl. How much change can she sustain and still stay true to her nature? What kind of change is good, and builds the character? What kind of change is too much to handle? If I want to keep moving her story forward, she’s going to have to change, and change significantly.
Meh. I am starting to understand how shortsighted I was way back when I started writing these books. An iconic character is a noble goal, but no matter what you do, they have to change or the series becomes stagnant.
Let’s use our venerable favorite, Jack Reacher, as an example.
In my mind, Reacher is the ultimate series character. He is iconic in every sense of the word. He is a hero. He is consistent. You know what you’re going to get when you pick up a book by Lee Child.
But Reacher is far from predictable, and therein lies the true majesty of an iconic character. One who can alter subtly instead of “CHANGING” is the goal I had in mind. He even tries to change himself, but always ends up back where he started.
John Connolly’s Charlie Parker is another example I draw from when thinking of excellent series character. Parker does change, appreciably, but that change is a dynamic reaction to his circumstance in the opening book, and the rest of his changing is that subtle altering over the course of the series that Reacher does. Every time Parker tries to change, he ends up ruining things, so it’s easier to stay the same. (I’m simplifying this a wee bit, but remember, I’m struggling for cogent thought today, so bear with me.)
Well. I’ve now given myself a lot to think about.
How about you? How do you feel about series characters, and their evolution over time? Do you like drastic change, or something less appreciable? Any examples you could toss into the mix to help me think this through would be great appreciated!
(I’m at Bouchercon this weekend, so forgive me if I’m a bit lackadaisical. I’ll try to get to everyone over the course of the day.)
Wine of the Week: 2008 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia