I have been doing a lot of thinking about character arcs lately. Character arcs are the changes that a hero or heroine ( and other characters) make by the end of the story. Hopefully it is some sort of growth, but not always.
Character arcs are more difficult, I think, with series characters, unless of course, you start with a child. Unfortunately, I did not.
In my Safe House series, I started with the heroine not quite sure about wanting her divorce. It showed in her lack of desire to negotiate for things from her estranged husband, it showed in her inability to see that as the main caretaker of her children that she needed a different schedule from her job and it showed in the fact that she continued to sleep on a fold-away cot instead of buying a bed. The character arc was a snap.
As I have gone through the series, (I am presently writing book 5, editing book 4 and starting to try to sell book 3) I have tried to show other areas of growth for the character. But the feeling I’m getting right now, is that she is going to be too darn good to be true.
I know that it sure doesn’t work that way in life. Hopefully we are all continually growing and making changes. And sometimes changes are not for the better. But I know that when I read a work of fiction where the heroine is going down the wrong path at the end of the book, I have little to no desire to pick up the next one; it’s just too depressing to want to read it.
So here is the typical writer’s dilemma and I think the reason why so many writers stop writing a particular series. It’s not that every particular scenario has been done to death. You can’t possibly do all that in one series. It’s that you tend to start to caricature your own character.
Think about it–half way through the series, you have the hero become a drunk (maybe he’s lost a child.) Is this a series you want to read? Not so much.
What the answer is I don’t know yet. Maybe after book 5, I drop the series. Maybe I have written myself into a corner. Maybe I’ll have an arc of my own and figure it all out.