by Bethany Maines
Recently, I was discussing series and sequels with another writer. The general question was how to connect an overarching story to an individual story. If the books plotline makes sense how do I add in the greater plotline without frustrating the reader with not enough answers, or annoying them with too many threads that don’t pertain to the current story? As we hashed through how to accomplish this we agreed that previous generations of writer’s didn’t have as much expectation to connect their sequels or series.
No one expected any of Jane Austen’s characters to pop up in her other books or link to each other to create an “Austen Universe.” Hercule Poirot went on mystery after mystery, but his character didn’t evolve enormously and there was no evil mastermind to hunt book after book. Even in the pulp era, Tarzan went on adventure after adventure, making incremental progress in his character development, until eventually we just had the Son of Tarzan because there was nothing else left.
The idea of a long running story arc seems more specifically tied to television and serial movies. And with the rise of streaming television and binge-watching it seems more prevalent than ever. When I can watch an entire seasons worth of TV at once I don’t have to worry that questions won’t get answered or miss the little clues from three weeks ago. The advent of streaming television has made it easier for TV writers to include a “Big Bad” for the season or to have episodes that don’t include a “villain of the week.” But novels don’t have the luxury of releasing all at once. It’s very difficult to hoard up enough material to release like that for one thing. And most writers can’t write at a pace that would produce quality sequels in a short span of time. But it seems clear that desire for that kind of material is there.
My Shark Santoyo Crime Series is an experiment in this over-arching story line and as we lead up to the release of Shark’s Hunt (#3) on April 23rd I find myself wondering if readers will enjoy the progression. I’m excited to have the next “episode” out in the hands of readers. Hopefully, they stick around for part four.
Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her fifth degree black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.