How many books should a series run?
As long as it takes....
Since I'm beginning my second series, I've been thinking a lot about this. I've decided that there are two kinds of series in crime fiction and they depend on the type of ICONs they feature as main characters.
The first type of series can sustain many books and go on, well, forever--until readers get bored or the author runs out of patience or ideas. In this kind of series the main character is relatively stable.
They don't really change--although the people around them and their circumstances do.
There are two main ICONic characters that work in this kind of series.
The INVESTIGATOR is a main character whose interest and driving force is to solve a puzzle, thus restoring balance to the world. These are many of your amateur sleuths and PIs. Think Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Miss Marple. They gain satisfaction from pitting their wits against the badguy and using their brains to figure things out.
In either of the above, the main characters' actions change the people around them more than themselves. Yes, they may gain physical scars, maybe even a few bad dreams along the way, but they won't change a lot from one book to the next.
In the second type of crime fiction series, the characters are malleable--in fact, they are undergoing a metamorphosis because their motivation to become involved in the crime is personal. There's something missing in themselves, a psychic wound if you will, and they're driven to fix themselves in order to fix the universe.
The two ICONic characters who are malleable and do change from book to book are:
The SEEKER may not need forgiveness as much as they need answers. Not specifically the logic that solves a crime but rather faith that there is something higher, something more out there and if they just strive hard enough, they may find it. Think Kathy Mallory, Fox Mulder...any character who begins as a cynic but really wants to believe in something larger than themselves or wants to believe in people rather than an abstract concept of justice.
Of course there are combinations and variations--that's what makes writing interesting! But it's interesting that you can easily name a dozen or more of the Palladins and Investigators, complete with long, long running series, than you can the Penitents or Seekers.
I think that's because when a character is on a quest to change themselves, there's nowhere to go once they achieve that. So they're often suitable for trilogies or shorter series or even standalones.
But for characters out to change the world around them and not themselves--well, lets face it, the world is never going to stop needing some improvement, is it? There will always be battles to be fought for justice, puzzles to be solved....
Gina Freeman, a main secondary character, is seeking herself--she's put on so many facades to please others that she has no real idea who she really is, but working in the ER as a resident is like being placed in a crucible and she's slowly forging her true identity.
Amanda, the medical student lead character of my second book, WARNING SIGNS, is at heart a Palladin, always driven to do the right thing for her patients.
Lucy Guardino, the main character of my new series, thinks she's a Palladin but at heart, she's truly a Seeker. She an FBI agent/soccer mom who works crimes against children while trying to protect her own family from danger—an impossible task, of course.
So, does this breakdown make sense to anyone else? What kind of Icon is your favorite to read? Which characters represent those Icons?
Do you want your characters to stay the same or grow and develop over time?
Thanks for sharing!
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."
The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, is due out October, 2009. Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net