Saturday, October 10, 2009

Spinning in Orbit


Only two hours to go before my posting window turns into a pumpkin, so this might be my shortest entry yet. Would I ever spin off one of my characters?

I like to believe that in the world of fiction anything is possible. That said, the real question I'd have to answer would be why I was spinning off a character when I could just as easily shift my fictional universe on its axis to look at the world from another character's point of view. In other words, think of everyone in your series as being their own planet, and sometimes the orbits of your characters intersect, and sometimes they don't. Presumably a story could be told from any character's point of view, and in effect become a new story altogether. So rather than spin off into another universe, why not see how things look from Pluto?

(Technically Pluto is not longer a planet, according to the controversial decision in 2004 by the International Astronomical Union, but you get the idea.)

A classic example might be The Adventure of the Blanched Solider or The Adventure of the Lion's Mane, two Sherlock Holmes cases narrated by Holmes himself instead of the intrepid Doctor Watson. But look around and you'll find plenty of contemporary crime series pushing a supporting character into the role of protagonist for a book or two.

Robert Crais' brilliant novel LA Requiem opened everything up by using multiple points of view in a series that had previously only used the classic first-person technique favored by PI novels. Then he wrote The Watchman, a novel driven by Joe Pike, but was that any less a part of the Elvis Cole series? Orson Scott Card's seminal series that began with Ender's Game reappeared as a second series of books beginning with Ender's Shadow that essentially told the same story from a secondary character's viewpoint, and in so doing changed the story enough that it became enthralling all over again but for very different reasons. Was that a spinoff series or just another tale told about the same universe, following the trajectory of another orbit?

Several prominent authors routinely shift point of view in their series, sometimes within a single novel, and in so doing give us the glimpse of a spinoff without undermining the affinity we have for the original novels that defined that singular fictional world. John Lescroart has done this to great effect, and it has kept his Dismas Hardy series consistently fresh.

So I guess that's a long way around to saying yes, I'd certainly consider a spinoff, but after careful reconsideration, I'd probably just push that character to the foreground and treat the novel as a continuation of the same series. Because I suspect that's how readers are going to see it, no matter which planet they're standing on at the time.

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