Please welcome my very distinguished guest this week. I am proud to host Frances di Plino once again. Frances is one of my favourite crime/thriller authors, and a lady of many talents, whose words of wisdom are worth digesting.
As a creative writing tutor, I receive many emails asking how to structure a series. This is partly because under my pen name I am the author of four D.I. Paolo Storey novels. You would think (as do the senders of emails asking for my help) that I would be able to answer in a trice – oh, yes, simply do this or that and you have the set up for the next ten books.
If only life were that simple! You see, I never intended to write a series when I penned Bad Moon Rising. In my mind, it was a standalone crime/thriller with a deep psychological thread running through it. I only needed the police there so that the criminal would be stopped.
But Paolo Storey, my detective inspector, had other ideas. As I neared the end of the book, the conclusion took a sudden turn I hadn’t anticipated. Paolo had decided he wasn’t going to be a one-trick pony – given a case to solve and then put out to grass. Oh, no, he made it quite clear he had no intention of vacating my mind until I’d written another book with him in the starring role.
Which is how Someday Never Comes came to be. I thought I just needed to write another book with Paolo in the lead to tie up all the loose ends flapping in the breeze from Bad Moon Rising. By the time I was a third of the way into Someday Never Comes, I knew there was no way I could put Paolo to one side – and so my series came into being.
There are, of course, many benefits to writing a series. One of them is that I know the characters as well as I know my husband. In fact, I know Paolo better than I know my husband! There’s always a possibility with my spouse that he might act out of character and do something outrageous – maybe not very likely, but it could happen.
With Paolo and the other regular characters, that can never be. They have to behave according to the natures I have bestowed on them – anything else and my growing fan base would lose faith in them.
So that particular benefit is also one of the main disadvantages. My readers believe in Paolo, his family and his colleagues. If I make even one of them do something out of character, I run the risk of losing the dedicated readers I’ve worked hard to acquire.
I know this because many years ago I read a John Lescroart novel in which his entire cast of regular characters did something so out of character I threw the novel against a wall in disgust. (Fortunately, this was pre-Kindle days or that could have been an expensive bout of temper.) I had followed Dismas Hardy and his friends from the very first book through so many trials and tribulations, I knew how each one of them would react to the situation Lescroart created in the finale of The First Law, the 9th Dismas Hardy novel. And then Lescroart made them do something so outrageous I stopped buying his novels because I no longer believed in his characters.
In each of the D.I. Paolo Storey novels I’ve advanced the personal lives of all the characters and that’s something that has to be taken into account when looking at new plotlines. From Bad Moon Rising through to the third novel, Call it Pretending, relationships grew, dissolved, fell by the wayside and were picked up again. The fourth in the series comes out this month and those relationships have moved on still more.
Book four, Looking for a Reason, involves Paolo’s toughest case so far. Someone is subjecting men to systematic rape and torture, but who? More to the point – why? After three days of cruelty, starvation and water deprivation, they are released. Paolo has many questions, but the biggest one of all is this: why, to a man, do they refuse even to admit they were held captive? As if the hunt for the elusive abductor wasn’t enough, Paolo has to spend time finding out if money has been pilfered from public funds poured into a new youth centre. He upsets a few local bigwigs in the process, but ruffling feathers is the least of his worries. His most important task is to work out why the attacks take place. If he can do that, he’ll be a step closer to knowing who is behind them; but can he uncover the answers in time to save someone close to him?
I’m delighted to say book five, No Easy Sacrifice, will be out in August 2015.
Now that I’ve accepted I am a serial novelist, I felt it was important to mark the event. I’ve ordered my husband a mug with a message on it: My wife kills people for a living!
If you have time, you may wish to read what Frances said last time she visited me: https://jbwye.com/2013/12/17/killing-him-softly-with-my-words/
Frances di Plino is the pen name of Lorraine Mace, children’s author, humour columnist for Writing Magazine and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She is a former tutor for the Writers Bureau, and now runs a private critique and mentoring service for writers.
Writing as Frances di Plino, she is the author of the crime/thriller series featuring D.I. Paolo Storey: Bad Moon Rising, Someday Never Comes, Call It Pretending and Looking for a Reason