The Writer’s Craft #35 – How to keep up readers’ interest in a series
M. D. Benoit is the author of the popular Jack Meter Case Files (http://mdbenoit.com). She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where all of Jack Meter’s Case Files are solved—with a few jumps throughout the universe…and beyond.
I unlocked my door and pushed it open. “You’d better fix it”, I said. “That dripping is murder on my hangover.”Johnson slipped by me and I followed me in. Aplin jammed his shoulder in the opening to stop me from slamming it in his face.“Which hangover?” he said. “I hear you’re drinking pretty heavy these days.”
Jack Meter is slowly killing himself through booze and cigarettes, following the death of his girlfriend in an explosion and a stay in the psych ward. He doesn’t care if he lives or dies. He’s simply enduring.
It would have been boring to perpetuate his condition in the second book. Instead, I have the protagonist grow, intellectually and emotionally, and introduce interesting secondary characters. Throughout the series, Jack acquires a smart lesbian sidekick, alien friends who keep track of him, a trusty RCMP buddy, a landlord who’s also a lawyer, a French-Canadian housekeeper, and a very strange cat. Each of them force Jack to grow—even when he doesn’t want to.
Another challenge is to tie the stories together across the series. I do it by feeding bit and pieces of the back story to readers throughout the novel like in my latest book, Meter Parents:
Fred had appeared in my condo one day and stuck around, despite my initial efforts to get rid of him. He acted like a cat, except when he didn’t. He had an uncanny way of following me wherever I went, although he sometimes needed props, like the last time when he’d had to eat some of the poisonous flower to follow me into Aphrodite’s dream world.
If you’re a series writer, have you found other tricks to help readers follow your protagonist’s journey?