Saturday, 19 October 2013

Series or Standalones by Chris Longmuir


     I’ve recently been thinking about what constitutes a series in crime fiction. I started to think about this after describing my Dundee books at the recent launch of Missing Believed Dead, and whether I was right in labelling the three Dundee crime books as The Dundee Crime Series.
     You see, in my books the police are not the main characters, they are secondary characters. The main characters are either victims, suspects or perpetrators, and they are completely different in each book. So, because my main characters are different in each book, does that make the books standalone crime fiction rather than a series?
     Julie, the main character in Night Watcher, disappears into that space all characters go to when we, the writers, are finished with them. Admittedly she appears in Dead Wood as a distant memory, but she’s not there in the flesh.
     Kara, my feisty single mother, who is my main character in Dead Wood, doesn’t quite disappear completely at the end of the book, because I’ve given her a walk-on part in Missing Believed Dead. However, I’m sure the Carnegie family from Missing Believed Dead, are going to vanish into the ether. But, if I decide to do another book in the series I’m going to have to give birth to some more, completely different characters, get under their skin, find out their stories, and become part of their life.
     On the other hand, the secondary police characters return in every book, and my reading public seem to like DS Bill Murphy. So, because DS Bill Murphy appears in every book, does that make the books a crime series? My brain is aching thinking about this.
     However, maybe I can have the best of both worlds and count them as stand-alones, as well as being part of a series. It’s called having your bread buttered on both sides.

Chris Longmuir





6 comments:

madwippitt said...

I prefer having cake and eating it (what's the point of having it just to look at?) I shall muse on this knotty problem as I munch ...

Bill Kirton said...

Interesting question, Chris. I tend to agree with your point about the suspects, victims et al being the primary characters. That's certainly how I feel about my lot. On the other hand, my main policeman, Jack Carston, has developed through my series as have the rest of his team, albeit to a lesser extent.
For what it's worth, I do think of your books as a series and I think it makes commercial sense to continue to describe them thus. Apart from anything else, Bill Murphy's personal issues make him an ongoing story in his own right. Then there's the need to distinguish them from your excursions into other genres (Salt-Splashed Cradle, etc.) But whatever label you choose, keep writing them.

Chris Longmuir said...

Thanks, Bill, I'll try to keep on writing them. However, I'm busy with a historical crime at the moment. It's possibly the start of another series. I do like to ring the changes!

Lydia Bennet said...

you are versatile Chris, which is great! Readers do seem to like series, they ask if the next one will have the same characters, even if they are not the main focus, it helps readers feel they are part of that world again that they enjoyed last time. it deffo makes commercial sense and is also accurate to describe those three as a series.

CallyPhillips said...

Ha ha... a chance to be pedantic, madwippet. The actual phrase is 'you can't eat your cake and have it.' In other words if you eat cake it no longer exists. The other way round makes no sense 'you can't have your cake and eat it' though I applaud your spirited attempt at meaning - as you say, why would anyone have cake just to look at? All this quite apropos of nothing except that it's the one phrase that drives me bananas (to employ a cliche CLICHE ALERT) since it is almost always misused.
As regards the actual TOPIC of the blog, sorry Chris, it's a GOOD question. I wrote a novella which keeps trying to mutate into a trilogy then a four parter but NOT a series more a sort of conglomoration of different perspectives from a variety of major/minor characters told in a variety of narrative 'voices'. Fortunately for the world these are all only extant in my head at present and long may it stay that way. I can't write my work and publish. Or should that be I can't publish and write my work or... ah well... one thing I'm sure of Chris is that characters will pop up when least expected (and probably least wanted, like good ideas!)

Lydia Bennet said...

I used to puzzle over the cake conundrum too - it might be more clearly worded as 'you can't eat your cake, and keep it too'.