By Tracy Kiey
I have only written a series, so I can’t say if I’d prefer writing a stand-alone. However, when I wrote my first mystery, Murder at Longbourn, I never envisioned it turning into a series (frankly, I never thought it would ever get published). But somehow the Fates smiled on it, and I wrote four of the Elizabeth Parker mysteries.
My current series is loosely based on Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Rather than Nick and Nora Charles, my protagonists are Nic and Nigel Martini. She is the ex-detective, and Nigel is the wealthy socialite. And instead of a wire-hair fox terrier named Asta, Nic and Nigel are aided in their investigations by a large bullmastiff named Skippy. (For those of you who were fans of The Thin Man movies, Skippy was the real name of the dog who played Asta.)
As you probably deduced, I am fan of The Thin Man movies. To me, the appeal lies mainly in the relationship between Nick and Nora; especially their rapid-fire banter. They are wealthy, glamorous, and urban and obviously enjoy each other’s company. That said, I don’t think fans watch the movies to see them develop or grow either as individuals or a couple. In fact, I think the introduction of Nicky, Jr. was a huge misstep as Nora was suddenly was thrust into the role of ‘Mother.’ Hollywood seemed uncomfortable with a glamorous, martini-swilling mom, and Nora became a little duller after the arrival of Nicky, Jr.
Right now, I have no plans to change the dynamic between Nic and Nigel; their role, so to speak, is to amuse and solve crimes. In that sense, they are similar to a Miss Marple or Poirot mystery (not in craft or imagination, mind you, just in character development). Neither Miss Marple nor Poirot changed very much – if at all – over the course of their sleuthing careers and that suited me just fine.
I imagine it is easier to write about characters you already know. You are already familiar with their personalities, their likes, and their dislikes. There is no need to flesh them out. If your series is set in a fixed location, that too might make it easier to navigate. However, there is something appealing about finding new characters, locations, and adventures. And I could see how writing about the same character time after time could become somewhat tiring or even annoying. We’ve all heard how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found Sherlock so irritating that he attempted to kill him off only to have to resurrect him due to public demand. Even Dame Agatha Christie tired of her Poirot. According to her grandson, she longed to “exorcise herself of him,” but was unable due to his popularity with readers.
I think it would be fun to one day write a story in which when I type “the end,” it really is the end. There would be no need to leave some plot point unfinished or undeveloped. But until then, I am happy to write about Nic and Nigel as they sip cocktails and banter their way through another mystery. And speaking of which, the latest in the series, Killer Cocktail, is now available!