Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Throw Me a Life Preserver

Posted by: R.L. Naquin
Now that I’m writing book five of a six-book series, I’ve discovered a problem. It’s not a plot problem, exactly, because I’ve known the complete story for some time now. It’s not that I’m bored with the series, though—sure—some days are a little slower for me than others. It’s not a fear of disappointing my readers or finishing the series and never writing anything people like again. Those problems might show up later, but right now, it’s cool. I got this.

No. The problem I’m having right now is sort of an embarrassment of riches.

I’m drowning in characters.

I love my characters. Readers tell me they love my characters. Reviewers who weren’t in love with the plot often said they love my characters. But with each book, new characters have entered the already crowded world and made themselves important.

I’m on book five, folks. Demons in My Driveway. There’s only one left after this. Half my cast is standing around backstage, waiting for their cues. How can I give them each enough page time to complete their arcs? How can I keep all the most-loved players front and center when the pace of the story is moving too quickly for the character-building tea breaks and heart-felt talks on the front porch?

To make matters more complicated, writing book five isn’t like writing all the previous books. I’m not working on just one book. Book five is more like the first half of a two-part finale. The scope is so much larger. And I’m painfully aware that I really do have to start wrapping up all the storylines I started so many books ago.

This has all been Zoey’s journey. But part of Zoey’s journey was picking up new friends and family everywhere she went. That’s her thing. And it’s caused a huge headache for me. Every scene, it seems, I have to figure out where everybody is. If she’s home, who’s sleeping in which bedroom or tent? This includes monsters in closets and under beds—which closet and whose bed?

I’ve been sorely tempted to whip out a box of LEGO mini-figures so I could stage it all. People are everywhere. Creatures are everywhere. And as the danger increases—as it must—more people of all different types rally to Zoey’s aid, creating further crowding.

Zoey and I are drowning.

So, maybe some of the characters won’t get as much time on screen after this. But I did discover something I can do about it. I’ve started writing short stories in Zoey’s world. It helps me spend a little more time with Zoey and her friends without the pressure of the world coming to an end. So far, I’ve put out two short stories, “Ill-Conceived Magic” and “Hidden Holidays.” A few more are coming. In fact, I’ve got my eye on a whole group of people from the upcoming book four, Golem in My Glovebox. Characters who were that much fun to write deserve more than a chapter and a half. They might even get their own novella.

So, that’s my solution. Keep the plot moving forward and write short stories to keep the characters from feeling slighted. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’ll get me to the end of the series.

And who knows…maybe someday I'll write a spinoff.

Rachel's head is packed with an outrageous amount of useless Disney trivia. She is terrified of thunder, but not of lightning, and sometimes recites the Disneyland dedication speech during storms to keep herself calm. She finds it appalling that nobody from Disney has called yet with her castle move-in date.

Originally from Northern California, she has a tendency to move every few years, resulting in a total of seven different states and a six-year stint in England. Currently, she's living in the Heartland, planning her next grand adventure. Rachel has one heroic husband, two grown kids, a crazy-catlady starter kit, and an imaginary dog named Waffles.

She doesn't have time for a real dog.

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  1. I know I'll be very sorry to see all of your wonderful characters go, so I'm hoping you will continue to write short stories and novellas featuring them. I don't think 6 books will be enough...

  2. :-) Thanks, Jen. I'll do my best to keep the Monster Haven people going in some way, even when Zoey's story is told. I think there's room for a lot of other characters to share their stories, too.


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