Thursday, January 8, 2015

When Do You Let Go?

           When do you let go of a character or their story? I’ve completed one trilogy and now working on a second. I’m also working with a series of novellas.

            First, about the trilogies; the format I’ve enjoyed with my high fantasy novels. It gives me enough rope to develop a character and the supporting cast over a certain period of time. You can tell everything from a complete life story (I haven’t…yet) to a major incident, or incidents, spread out over months or years. So far, the published ones have developed out of what I created first as a stand-alone, then decided there was more than enough unresolved to allow me to continue. The only problem I’ve found is trying to make certain that book two doesn’t drag; the dreaded middle volume with too many issues rattling around unsolved.

            In both of the above cases I’ve had enough possibilities left over to continue beyond the trilogy, but have resisted the urge. In the case of the Dark Lady series, I could expand it and look at the many stories of the supporting cast. What I fear is beating the proverbial dead horse to a slow and painful death. When does the reader (and the publisher!) lose interest in these people and their problems? Is it better to let the readers’ imaginations complete what might happen next?

            The other medium I currently work in is the novella. I’ve tried short stories, but find I prefer to think in a longer length. Several of my short story attempts have been described as scenes that would really rather be novels. The novella is my compromise.
            Currently I write a fantasy detective series. Each novella is a particular case. Because I tend more toward the silly rather than the serious, the novella doesn’t drag things out too long. This allows me to gradually develop the main character, his backstory, and the supporting cast. I’ve had six published under the Housetrap Chronicles and a fourth currently sitting at the publisher waiting for a yea or nay. I’m not bored with writing these yet, hopefully the readers feel the same way. The question that rattles away inside my skull on occasion is: when do I stop? When does the reader, or the writer, get tired of all this? If I do decide I’ve reached the end, do I wrap up the series, or just walk away from it? My fear is I create a grand and gory finish only to discover later that I really want the adventure to continue.

            How do other writers know when they have come to the end of a story? When do you realize that enough is enough? I don’t want to overstay my welcome, and neither do the cast of characters I enjoy living with.


The Novels:
The Dark Lady Trilogy
The Queen’s Pawn

The Novellas:
Knight’s Bridge
The Housetrap Chronicles (six…so far)


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Allow several things to guide you. If you are still interested in furthering their stay. And then the magic number three.

Nora Roberts has done many series of three, either three sisters/siblings or three friends. They appear in the first book, and their lives relate to the origial main character, but their stories go untold until the next book. Each of the three are advanced as a minor character in the third book.

Olga Godim said...

I always struggle with this question. One of my recent short stories was rejected by a magazine because they thought it wasn't complete. I thought it was but I wrote a new ending anyway.
In life, our stories are never complete. They always continue until we die, always something unresolved. It's a good thing, otherwise why live? I think the same is true for our characters. As long as she or he is alive in your mind, as long as something in his life is unresolved, you can continue writing about him, and the readers would welcome such stories.
I think.

Big Mike said...

I try to limit series to no more than two parts. Why? With rare exceptions both writers and readers become exhausted at that stage and quality begins to suffer. Course, JMO.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Gabriella Austen said...

Actually, I'm tired of my characters about halfway through revisions and am so glad to be done with them when the story is published I can't imagine bringing them back to life for another whole novel. If I did, I'd have to kill them in some horrible way, which is never a good idea.