Writer’s Craft #101 – Kill to Retire
Jennifer Lott has appeared in print in Neo-Opsis Magazine (“A Day in the Life”; Issue 18; December 17, 2009) and the Opus 5 Okal Rel anthology (“Pet Peeves”, Absolute XPress, 2011). Her first public foray into writing is her popular fan fiction Alternative Ending to the Animorphs, which was well received by readers disappointed by the dark turn taken by this young adult series in its final installments. An early childhood educator, Jennifer writes mostly for children and young adults. But is currently working on an SF novel. She said “yes” to boyfriend JP Sullivan last December and the marriage was in June 2012.
“I wanted to finish my series and retire,” said an author at this year’s Surrey International Writer’s Conference, “so I told my agent I was killing my main character so my fans couldn’t ask for more. My agent said ‘no’. I said ‘why, it’s just a character’.”
Without knowing anything else about what this woman writes, I know I don’t want to read her books or watch the movie she’s got in the works. Letting your book get made into a movie does not make you a sellout. Treating your characters as disposable products does. If the creator of said character cares so little about her creations, I certainly don’t want to meet them. My assumption is they can’t be worth caring about; they must be cardboard. It got me thinking, what does lead an author to portray her work that way? My mother may be in the right when she says it is just a hidden brag: “I am so famous, smothering popularity is what I suffer.”
My husband, who loves Dragonlance, believes series should just go on; authors shouldn’t make finite series without at least letting someone else take over when fans want more. I was willing to agree as far as books such as Dragonlance go. This is a D&D based universe featuring multiple authors. I also agree there are picture book characters who carry on very well after their original authors stop telling their stories (although I would not begrudge an original author feeling too attached to allow this). I am guilty of loving the Animorph series which is largely ghost-written, but as an author thinking of my own personal work the idea horrifies me.
Fans shouldn’t have the power to push an author beyond his/her vision. They have every right to want more, but so has an author to say “this one’s finished”. I believe in fan fic. By all means, if you can think of so much more that happens in my universe, write the stories and post them online. I am honoured you’re that interested. But don’t expect me to drag out what I’ve built. Just like a painting, the work is done at some point and throwing more paint onto official artwork only obscures what’s already been achieved. I believe a writer should have the integrity to know when they can’t do their next book justice. To decide this is where it ends: this is my completed masterpiece and I’m proud to have it out there.
After this discussion, my husband posed a terrible question: “What if your heart wasn’t in it halfway through your series? Would you really wrap it up where it was and leave your fans hanging?” My series has the type of framework that concluding it any earlier than planned would make it a glaringly incomplete masterpiece. My immediate response was “that would never happen!” Because of course if it did, I’d be screwed. I don’t want to write books I’m not proud of, but I don’t want to hand the integrity of my series over to a ghost writer either.
How would you answer the question yourself? Do you have fall back plans? Is losing the passion for a project even a concern?