I recently received a question from a reader asking about continuing the Russian Love series or spinning off a new series based on characters introduced in Russian Dawn and Russian Pride (the latter to be released on September 30). My answer: No. At least not now. I want to quit the series while it still interests me, because if I get bored with it, then so will my readers. And that’s not good.
Other authors have made that mistake. A reader can tell when the author has written the book by rote because it merely rehashes similar story lines from earlier books in the series. The heroes and heroines all begin looking and sounding the same. The plots run the same tired course. There’s comfort in the familiar, but it can get boring, too.
I have, though, noticed that my plots–especially the paranormal and fantasy plots–bear many similarities. Truly, there’s nothing new under the sun. I heard from an English professor decades ago that literature encompasses only 36 distinct plots: all else is a variation on those plots. Another professor stated that great literature focused on two things: sex and death. He had a good point. There’s actually been research on this, with the results being “there are “six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives”. These are: “rags to riches” (a story that follows a rise in happiness), “tragedy”, or “riches to rags” (one that follows a fall in happiness), “man in a hole” (fall–rise), “Icarus” (rise–fall), “Cinderella” (rise–fall–rise), and “Oedipus” (fall–rise–fall). The most successful – here defined as the most downloaded – types of story, they find, are Cinderella, Oedipus, two sequential man in a hole arcs, and Cinderella with a tragic ending.” This falls in line with the “simple shapes” of literature asserted by legendary author Kurt Vonnegut.
Over the weekend, I read a horribly written short story (part of a collection of stories that I did not finish because the writing did not improve) and began reading a novel that both relied on the old “hero kidnaps the heroine” theme. There’s nothing wrong with using a tried and true plot; it’s how the author uses it that matters. As stated before and especially with regard to romantic fiction, we read to enjoy the journey, not the ending.
That being said, I probably won’t veer too far off course with my stories, as I like the comfort of the familiar. It’s satisfying. However, I don’t want to grow bored with the execution of the familiar plot: I want to keep it fresh and interesting.
That’s where ghostwriting has an influence. Because I write stories based on other people’s ideas and plot outlines–hey, I’ve got to earn a living–I sometimes find myself struck by one of those proverbial “light bulb” moments when something in the client’s documents grabs my notice and sparks an idea, a new twist that I can manipulate to make my own. It happens with songs, movies, and other books I read. Inspiration comes from a multitude of sources.
So, next on the project list will probably be the sequel to Daughter of the Twin Moons. I haven’t started writing it yet, but the characters have begun speaking to me, which usually indicates that they’re ready for their own story.