Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lonely Little Stand-Alone in a Serial World

Last year, I came up with a short piece for the Young Adult Authors You've Never Heard Of blog about how I didn't write a series but instead focused on stand-alone books, and at the time I was beginning to wonder if that was such a wise thing to do. After all, if a reader likes your work and really likes your characters, it would make sense to continue with that particular universe and that particular population. 

But I have never had a series in mind when I wrote my manuscripts. It's almost as if my characters had the one story to tell, and after having told it, went off on vacation to Patagonia or other parts unknown to me. I can find them if I want to, I suppose, but really they seem to be quite finished with me. Yet, more and more successful writers that I know keep dropping broad hints to me that a series would probably be a better product. I must admit I'm hooked on some series myself. And yet. And yet?

The only series I've ever had in mind is the usual detective kind. I don't think there's any mystery reader on the planet who doesn't carry around his or her own series internally, whether the protagonist is a cop, a detective, a moonlighter, a novelist, or a spiritualist of some kind, and since I'm a mystery reader of the first order, I certainly have a sleuth of my own currently renting space in my attic. I think a murder mystery could be fun to write. I think that all of us who read mystery stories probably would love to write them, too.

But when it comes to my YA supernatural stuff, a series never crossed my mind. UNTIL. I realized a few weeks ago that when I first started writing my little ghost story books, one of the most important settings was a place called Bridgeton Park Cemetery. When I wrote my second YA book, Saving Jake, I threw Bridgeton Park Cemetery into the story just as a private joke for myself. I didn't figure Jake was going to see the light of day anyhow. But he did. My next manuscript is awaiting my corrections and rewrites, and there is actually a wonderful place in the story to include Bridgeton Park Cemetery. I think I will.

Does it make sense to have a series that continues with a place -in my case, a cemetery- instead of with the characters? A friend of mine who is a professor of literature told me that William Faulkner centered a number of stories around a particular location. Stephen King, the King himself, set so many stories in Castle Rock that I can't even remember all of them. Not that I could compare myself to Faulkner or King, but I keep thinking that having a sense of place might give a reader continuity as nicely as a more traditional person-oriented series. It would not be like seeing the same characters book after book, but it would certainly expand the universe of every book I write that is built around that graveyard. And it would suggest that these characters could very well run into one another - or even know each other.

My still-to-be revised manuscript could use a sequel, I've been told, so I guess I would have to work up another story around Bridgeton Park. But as someone who spends free time visiting cemeteries, that probably wouldn't be much of a stretch.

Anyone else out there know of a series based on place rather than on people?

[This piece is also at Young Adult Authors You've Never Heard Of:]

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