Thursday, April 28, 2011

Keeping The Love Alive

Several years ago I saw a documentary titled, Women Of Mystery: Three Writers Who Forever Changed Detective Fiction. It featured authors Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Marcia Muller.   Grafton spoke of a time when she realized that she was no longer fully in tune with or connected to her main character, Kinsey Millhone.  She corrected that problem by spending days walking around the house swearing like a sailor the way Kinsey might.  In doing so she successfully channeled...or to be more accurate, re-channeled, her character. Clearly this is her method and it works spectacularly well for her. I can't tell you how much I respect that. But I can tell you right now, that wouldn't f**cking work for me.

And yet it's a problem that I'm familiar with.  When you have a series featuring the same characters you are always in danger of having those characters become tired. You see it in television series all the time. Viewers will love a series for the first few seasons but by season three or four the whole thing feels stale. The only way to keep a series alive is to keep the vitality of the characters alive and to make sure that they have emotional a VERY slow rate. The last thing you want to do is solve all their problems before the series has come to a close. Usually when a character viewers/readers have come to love becomes...well, boring, it's because the writer (be that an author or a TV writer) is bored with him/her.  It's an occupational hazard. After all, writers, like other people who work within creative fields, tend to crave novelty.  So if you're writing for the same characters year after year you need to find a way to stay connected to them and, most importantly, interested in them. I'll admit that after I wrote my fifth Sophie book, Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress I became worried that I was in danger of that happening to me. Writing Vows was fun but could I keep my Sophie and her friends vibrant and fresh for a sixth book?  I wasn't sure.

Sex, Murder and a Double LatteAnd then Lifetime contracted me to write a pilot for a Sophie series. The process of creating Sophie for a new medium totally revitalized her for me.  It was like a remarriage.  There I was with my characters passionately renewing my vows.  Like a new bride the whole process made me giddy and suddenly I realized that Sophie is as beautiful to me as she was on the first day we met.  I hadn't necessarily anticipated that happening but it makes sense. If you crave novelty but need to write for the same characters the best way to keep things exciting is to play with the format. That way when you go back to the old format you do so with a new perspective and energy.  I have no idea if Lifetime will want to shoot the pilot or not but I do know that writing it will make the next Sophie book that much better for both me and my readers. If the series doesn't get picked up I'll look into different ways to keep Sophie cutting-edge and exciting for me. Perhaps I should write a short story about her and her friends between books.  The story wouldn't even have to be a mystery, it could just be about an adventure she has with her friends.  I actually have several other ideas as well and over time I'll try them all out.  But for now there's no rush. Sophie  has recaptured my heart and I really believe that ours is a lasting love.

Kyra "Fashionista Fatale" Davis


debbie said...

I am one of those people who usually only watch a series for a season or two. Like you said it just gets old and lifeless. I do love reading series in books though and only have had a couple that have gone stale. I love Sue Grafton she is the 1st author that I have followed and purchased all her books, in hardcover no less!!

I hope your pilot gets picked up it would be great to watch your characters come to life on screen. Hopefully they are true to your series!

Good luck

Unknown said...

I'm a loyal series watcher but it has to keep me intrigued! But I don't forsee not staying intrigued if your series gets picked up by Lifetime!!! Good luck!

kyradavis said...

Thank you both! Obviously i'm hopeful that the series gets made (I have a conference call w/Lifetime today so send me all your positive thoughts!). But if it doesn't happen I'm still incredibly grateful for the experience. I've learned a lot from it and it's helped me grow as a writer.