Thursday, September 10, 2009

Change is Always a Good Thing

I’m going to pick up on Donis’s thread here. Last week, she wrote about the challenges of series writing, citing the writer’s need to balance the audience’s expectations with a author’s desire for artistic autonomy.

In his wonderful essay, “The Mystery of Mystery Writing” (Walden Book Report, September, 1998) Michael Connelly wrote, “The mystery has evolved in recent decades to be as much an investigation of the investigator as an inquiry of the crime at hand. Investigators now look inward for the solutions and means of restoring order. In the content of their own character they find the clues.”

What a great way to sum up the current state of the genre, and Connelly is also speaking to the joys of writing a series. I’ve written seven novels in two series and am now writing a book that might be the start to another. There is something exhilarating about “growing” a series protagonist. You create a real world and watch your character develop and change over time. When we first met Jack Austin, he was a single, struggling pro athlete. Five books later, professionally, he has a lone PGA Tour win, is now a Tour greybeard, and is worried about losing his PGA Tour card to one of the rising young guns; at home, he is married to a journalist and is a dedicated father. As a writer, it was fascinating to develop one character so thoroughly and in a way that could only be done over several books and several years. I surely couldn’t do it in one book (unless we are talking a 1,500-page monster).

Yet, in my first Type M for Murder post, as a guest blogger last spring, I wrote that after ten or so years with Jack Austin, I was seeking a change. After writing 1,500 pages of Jack Austin (published pages that is, so perhaps 8,000 or 10,000 total pages for me), I was more than ready to step away from Jack and try something else. Now, after three years spent writing a female sleuth and starting a novel featuring a character unlike any I have written before, I realize that my writing is much better because of my departure. The prose is more concise, more insightful, and more colorful.

Change is always a good thing.


Charles benoit said...

Change is always a good thing...when you're the one making the change. Not so good when change is thrust upon you.

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