Monday, April 28, 2014

Series Setup

For some odd reason, one summer I got addicted to watching the TV series, House, M.D.
That series lasted from 2004 - 2012, but I started watching late in the game, while reruns were already showing. They still are on Tuesdays. 

With the marvels of DVR, a few weeks ago I was able to record not only the very last episode, but also the first and second episodes which all ran back to back.

It was fascinating to watch the series setup, as well as the concluding episode. From that, I garnered a few tips which could also apply to setting up a book series. If you're thinking of setting up a series, here are three questions you might want to ask yourself:  

  1. Are your characters unique?  In the first episode, it was apparent to me that House was a lovable, intriguing curmudgeon, who liked to go his own way. His buddy, Dr. James Wilson, appeared to be his polar opposite. Their boss, Lisa Cuddy, was a rules stickler. Early on, it's obvious House was not only attracted to her, but also enjoyed rattling her cage. The cast included other great characters on House's team, but I can't go into them all here. Each, however, played a particular role not only as a doctor, but as a person in his or her own right.
  2. Are the characters sympathetic? It seems strange to be fascinated by a character who enjoyed flaunting the rules, but I couldn't help being intrigued by House. One reason was the script writers' inclusion of House's leg injury. How could I not feel sorry for a guy who carried on, despite a debilitating leg injury, which kept him dependent on pain-killers? His buddy, Dr. Wilson, came off as not only a caring, kind person, but also specialized in oncology, a noble profession. Then there was Dr. Lisa Cuddy, who had her hands full keeping order in the midst of chaos.   
  3. Are the characters sustainable and plot worthy? Episodes for eight years featured House hard at work solving one after another medical puzzle. Patients exhibited strange and sometimes scary symptoms, many times resulting in a race against the clock to sustain life. Snippets about the personal lives of the main characters were interspersed with research about finding cures. Even in the most dire circumstances, it wasn't unusual for House to throw out a personal remark to catch another main character off guard. Dr. Wilson served as his conscience, yet had his own weaknesses. Dr. Cuddy fought an attraction to House. I won't tell you how the series ended, in case you want to find out for yourself.
Can you think of any other questions a series writer might consider? Or, maybe you'd like to mention a unique character from your book series, someone else's, or a TV series.

Experience the diversity & versatility of Morgan Mandel. For romantic comedy: Her Handyman & Girl of My DreamsThriller: Forever Young: Blessing or CurseShort Stories Sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer Career. Mystery: Two WrongsTwitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com Chick Lit Faves COMING SOON: A Perfect Angel

20 comments :

  1. Since I write two mystery series, I found your post most interesting. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't tie things up and quite, then I wonder what is happening with my characters and the only way to find out is write the next book.

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  2. This is probably hypocritical ... a first for me ... okay, maybe not a first but rare ... okay, maybe not rare ... but ... arrrrrgh ... ANNNNYWAY, I'm not a big fan of episodic TV shows ... or serial novels. Yes, yes, I did love the Bond novels ... but that was fast talkin', slow walkin', good lookin' Bond ... James Bond, for heaven's sake.

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  3. I would say in a series, particularly a long series, the characters have to continue to grow and evolve. The ensemble has to work. I watched a new series and all the character hated each other. This did not work for me. They may have been thrown together through circumstance, but outright hatred for each other was off-putting. Maybe over time they would have learned to like each other, but I didn't stay tuned in to watch. I have several favorite really long term series like Midsommer Murders and the key is having characters I look forward to seeing each and every time. I know what kind of story to expect. Choosing a cast for a book series is like interviewing potential roommates: you want some conflict to add tension but they still have to want to live together. No one enjoys watching negative people whinge. Oh, wait, there's reality television - nevermind. :)

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    1. Diana, you make some really great points about characters growing and evolving in a series. Otherwise, it would be very dull.

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    2. LOL, loved your reference to reality TV, Diana.

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  4. Marilyn Meredith is one author who knows how to write a good series!

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  5. Christopher, I can only get hooked on certain TV shows or book series. That's why when I do I'm absolutely thrilled to have made the connection.

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  6. I'm hooked on Castle. The characters have grown, and in some cases changed a little. I appreciate it because it offers fun characters and both drama and comedy. I like a book series that offers both, too.
    Marja McGraw

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    1. Castle is another one I'm hooked on also. I don't get hooked on that many, but keep searching for ones I'll like!

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  7. Like Marja, I love Castle. Perhaps because he's a novelist? No matter. Unique, sympathetic, sustainable characters are a must, whether in a novel or on TV. In fact, I'm working on that right now as I begin the second novel in my series. Excellent reminder and great post, Morgan!

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    1. Thanks, Linda. It's fun to post about things I like. It appears most of us are in agreement with our love of the Castle series, some are not as interested in House.

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    2. Actually, I like House, too. I just don't have a lot of time to watch TV and missed most of the series.

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  8. Hi, Morgan,

    The 4th novel in my Kim Reynolds mystery series, THE BAD WIFE, has just been published by Perfect Crime Books. The first novel in the series, THE INFERNO COLLECTION, received excellent reviews and sales which made me want to continue the series. I felt very much connected to Kim from the time I created her. I think that's important for a series. The author needs to feel a strong relationship to the main character for the series to be sustainable. Also, I believe the setting needs to be one familiar to the author so as to create authenticity.

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    1. Yes, an author should love his or her main character and know that person inside and out, especially when writing a series. I'm not sure about setting. It may be possible to make one up, but then you really have to keep track of the details somewhere so you don't forget. Much easier if you already know the place.

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  9. I enjoyed House as well, and love Castle too! I like series novels because I do become invested in the characters and want to continue with them.

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  10. Excellent example of strong, sustainable characters. House was unique. In my Seasons Mystery Series I worked hard to add new dimensions to the main characters in the second book, and looking for ways to do more of that in the third book. How the characters play off each other - like House and Wilson - adds to that dimension, so I let Angel and Sarah have at it. :-)

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    1. It's hard for us to do it, but easy to recognize it in others when the synergy is done well!

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  11. I watched House religiously for the first few seasons, then I thought he got mean, especially when he turned on friends. I stopped watching then because I didn't care about him anymore. There's a fine line in character development in movies and TV when the writer goes overboard to make the H/h outrageous, and I think they did that with House. As for my series, I'm having a hard time with the third book. I love my characters, but I need to ramp up the story to match the thriller aspects of the first two.

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  12. I guess I like House because he's different. I get bored by the same stuff on TV all the time. Also, I didn't watch at the beginning, but picked up watching after the series was done.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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