Tag Archives: characterts that don’t grow up

Should a book series end?

vsThink of classic kids books (pre Harry Potter) and we find an even mix of two kinds of series. On one hand we get authors writing seemingly endless collections of books, on the other we get relatively short collections with a fixed end point.

Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, and Rev. W. Awdry wrote in a way that left the reader with no sense that any one book was to be the ‘last book’. We see a big difference between these and books like the Narnia series, ‘the Lord of the Rings trilogy/quadrilogy’ (though not exactly children’s books), ‘Little Women’ (and its sequels), and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (and ‘Through the Looking Glass…’).

Maybe the thing that makes the biggest difference is the fact that characters in these continuous book series don’t seem to age (or they at least age at an extremely slowed rate), the other books noted guide the reader through a journey with the main character that often looks like a coming of age story. This leaves me stuck, I want to let my characters age and develop but I really don’t see myself closing off the series at any point.

I’ve got a world growing around Jack and his friends and family that shows no sign of shrinking. Ideas for books far into the future, when Jack and Thea are teenagers, and even adults, are already taking shape in my mind, but how do I let them grow without limiting myself to some future ‘end point’?

Thankfully Terry Pratchett has shown me the way. His Discworld series went on as long as he did and it’s open nature somehow lets it live on in the minds of readers. Commander Vimes, Lord Vetinari, and Tiffany Aching are still doing their own thing in my mind and in the minds of millions of Pratchett readers. Despite leaving things open Pratchett managed to allow his characters to grow and develop (and age) as the series went on. It’s comforting to know that I was never forced to see these characters ‘end’.

J. K. Rowling has basically said that she won’t write any more harry Potter books. She has absolutely every right to decide what she writes and when she writes, but I can’t help but feel saddened by this fact (I’m sure a lot of people do too). I like to hope that if Jack Reusen manages even 1% of the fandom Harry Potter has seen I’ll be able to keep his world alive and running.

There is no one big bad guy in Jack’s world, no clear obstacle that he’ll eventually one day overcome. I plan on putting my characters through all kinds of conflict, danger, adventure, discovery, and excitement for as long as I can. Perhaps some book series should end, there’s sometimes a natural point that feels like the time to say goodbye to the characters, but I don’t think authors have to write like this.

What’s your favourite type of book series? Do you like a clear and concrete close to the story, or do you prefer to feel as though there might be another chance to revisit the world just around the corner? Feel free to discuss your favourite book series, and what you like about them in the comments section below. As always thanks for reading, all the best, John

How big can a character get?

MS400016210446SThere are characters that stretch across the globe: Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse, Elsa but where are they? That might seem an odd question but think about it. What makes these characters so big? It could be the fact that they’re available on almost any type of media you could want (that clearly helps). However the thing that I personally think makes these characters so absolutely huge is that, in a way, they live inside the minds of a huge portion of the world’s population.

We’ve all had that moment when we’ve watched a film adaptation of a book and thought that the actor playing a character is nothing like the person we pictured. We already have an idea about that character, we’re connected to our imagined image of them, and we can even feel a little annoyed at the casting people for making such a wrong call.

This goes to show that as soon as we’ve encountered a character we develop our own version of them and when millions of people know a character that makes for a huge multi-layered version of them spread over our planet.

OK so Jack and his friends aren’t in the same league as these characters, currently there are just a few dozen copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ out there in the world but I am starting to get feedback trickling in about the book and one thing is becoming quite clear: I’m coming to the strange realisation that I have very little control now over the way that readers think about my characters.

In many ways they all kind of have a life of their own now. As the adventures of the book play out readers will inevitably be picturing Jack, Thea, Fynn, Sparky, Connor, Alyssa, Granny Reusen, and even Harold in ways I had never imagined.

It’s both amazing and very intimidating to be told that someone likes one of the characters because I’m still writing them and people might not agree with the direction some of the characters go in. I have to walk a fine line between character development and straying so far that people will feel cheated.

I made the decision from the very start to let my characters age, more than that I wanted them to develop, I want the events of each book to matter to them,  in light of that each story will change them irrevocably. I can’t even imagine what this process feels like for big authors like Rowling and Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant).

For these authors there are literally millions of versions of their characters out there in the world. They must have to have nerves of steel when making changes and developing their characters. The only other alternative would be to play it safe like Disney did with Mickey and not develop their character at all over the course of nearly ninety years (considering Mickey’s success I guess there’s something to be said for ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it).

Personally I want my characters to feel human and a big part of that involves letting them develop but that doesn’t stop it from being intimidating when in the back of your mind you know that some readers might not be entirely happy with the changes you make.

Do you have any favourite characters who were spoiled by a writer/author? Are there some un-aging characters that bug you (personally I’d love to see the Simpsons grow up)? Feel free to comment below, all the best, John