One Writer’s Journey

August 23, 2019

Series Characters: What It Takes to Bring Your Reader Back

I’ve been thinking about series characters a lot as I get back to work on my cozy mystery. What is it that makes them appealing?

It isn’t that they grow and that’s a fact that until recently really bothered me.  Isn’t that how a character arc is supposed to work?  Character has a problem, solves the problem and changes her world.  Growth!   But then I read a series of posts by K.M. Weiland on character arcs.  In addition to the positive arc, you have the flat arc and the negative arc.

A mystery generally has a flat arc.  A crime is committed.  Your character believes that X person committed the crime.  The authorities (or someone else) believe that Y person did it.  Your character proves that she is right and thus her perspective does not change.  Zero growth so it is a flat arc.

So if readers aren’t coming back for all that nifty growth, what is it that brings them back to your story world time and time again?  Quite often, they come back because they like or connect with the character.

This might mean that they have a hobby or interest in common with the character.  Think about the number of cozies with a character who knits, cooks, works in a coffee shop, or a bookstore.  These are all locations that appeal to the cozy crowd.  I’ve also read stories with main characters who are librarians or restore art work.

Perhaps the character has a life problem in common with the reader.  For younger readers, this might mean competing to be on a sports team or dealing with siblings.  For adult readers, it could be trying to balance home and work or dealing with both kids and aging parents.

What all of this means is that if you are interested in writing a series, the first step is to identify your reader.  Then figure out what might appeal to these readers in a character.  Only then can you create a series character.

–SueBE

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