Let’s face it. It’s hard to keep things fresh.
Milk left in the fridge too long goes sour. Meat spoils, even in a freezer. You know this if you’ve ever cooked a freezer-burned steak. Bleech! If you don’t close up the cereal box your toasty oats doughnuts get stale. Our interest in a hobby can wan almost as fast as we developed said interest. The proverbial resolution to exercise grows old before we can get to the shower to wash off the sweat. Even the passion in relationships can fade with time, if we take them for granted.
So just how does a writer, or in our case—writers, keep the cereal—oops, we mean serial—fresh so readers want the next book and keep turning the pages?
Create Great Characters—For us, the biggest factor in keeping the series fresh, and our interest in writing it, is to create great characters. Face, it, if you don’t love your characters, how can you expect the reader to love them? In each of The Turning Stone Chronicles there has been at least one character we have loved and who stands out in the story. Usually, a reader will comment to us about that same character. In The Promised One Catherine loved the villain Danny Shaw. She got into his character so much that she started talking like him. Several readers wanted to know what happened to Danny before they even finished reading the book. Of course, we wouldn’t tell them. To do so would spoil the surprise. In Blood Brothers it was bad boy Roc. Our editor loved this fellow. The complex nature and relationship between the hero Owen and heroine Kat, in Son of the Moonless Night, had us running to the computer to see how their story played out. Even though we plot extensively, we give our characters room to tell us who they are, and they do, often surprising us. In our latest book, The Mercenary and the Shifters, the villain shape shifter kingpin, Falhman, took center stage in our writers’ hearts. We loved getting into the core of his nastiness. We’re looking forward now to exploring several newcomers to the series and the immortal Keeper of the Stone, Scotsman Eli McCraigen, who will have their own starring roles in an upcoming books.
Create Memorable Scenes—Make sure you have scenes that grab the readers. If you aren’t feeling the tension, the emotion, and a connection with the characters and the story when you write a scene, odds are neither will your readers. The chance to write a scene that makes us cry, pant with passion, or tremble with fear motivates us to come back to the series and try to make each book a little bit better. Write something that will grab your readers’ hearts. Put pathos and pleasure and panic on the page. We have written some scenes that our editor said touched her hearts so much it made her cry. We know what she meant, because we were experiencing emotional upheaval as we wrote them.
Create Complex Plots—Donald is the star in our team when it comes to this. He loves braiding a multifaceted story. To help you learn how to do this, watch a television show or movie you love that has several story lines. Dissect it and see how they weave the multiple plots together. In our paranormal/urban fantasy romance series, there are at least two different stories lines, sometimes three. We also have two love stories in the books. Intertwining these different aspects together keeps us on our toes as we try to guide readers through the plot complexities. It’s easier in The Turning Stone Chronicles series since we usually have four to five POVs (no head-hopping though. Catherine hates head-hopping). We also try to make our two POV stories, like Kissing Santa, which is part of Sizzle in the Snow Soul Mate Christmas Collection, complex as well.
Create a Plot Twist—As readers, we love it when an author puts in a plot twist that makes us say, “OMG! We didn’t see that coming. But it sooo works.” As writers, we know that to make a plot twist that blows the reader away, one must be sure and leave a clue they will overlook on the first reading, but remember when the plot twist hits them. If you don’t, the reader will feel cheated. Finding a way to create that moment keeps us hunting for fresh ideas and ingenious ways to slip clues and foreshadowing into the book.
These are a few of the things we try to do to keep our books fresh and keep us eagerly returning to the computer to create a new story and our readers eagerly awaiting the next book. As a reader, what keeps a book fresh for you? As a writer, do you have other hints you’d like to share?