Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Getting Re-Acquainted with Characters

By Chester Campbell

An interesting facet of series writing is dealing with characters who wander in and out of the stories as the protagonists face a variety of circumstances. I’m working on the fifth book in my Greg McKenzie series, about a retired Air Force OSI agent and his wife, and the Gannons have just turned up again. They took a prominent role in the first couple of books as Greg and Jill McKenzie’s best friends. After a minor role in book three, they pulled a disappearing act in the last one.

It wasn’t anything planned. The story just moved in a way that didn’t call for any interaction with the folks who normally make contact with my main characters, particularly on weekends. My books take place on a pretty tight schedule, usually over a span of no more than a week. If the action doesn’t call for a little leisure activity, close friends get crowded out.

The Gannons, Sam and Wilma, took a prominent role in Secret of the Scroll as fellow travelers on the Holy Land tour where the trouble began. A retired Air Force pilot, Sam helped plan the trip for their Sunday School class. It was a mix-up that left the “souvenir” scroll at the Gannons' house that resulted in Jill’s being taken hostage by local cohorts of a Palestinian terrorist group.

In the second book, Designed to Kill, the Gannons' son died at Perdido Key, Florida in what police chose to call a suicide. Sam asked Greg to go down and try to find what really happened. As you might guess, it wasn’t suicide. But it was that investigation, and Jill’s participation in it, that led to the establishment of McKenzie Investigations shortly before the opening of book three, Deadly Illusions.

The Gannons played a minor role in Illusions, but the next book, The Marathon Murders, moved at such a pace that they got squeezed out. It involved a character who played a crucial role in the latter part of Secret of the Scroll. I suppose it’s a case of having room to deal with only one close friend at a time.

The new book, as yet unnamed, takes place around Christmastime. My characters, being good church-goers, take a break from the current case to attend the Sunday School class Christmas Party, part of which takes place at the Gannons' home. I have no idea how it will affect the plot. It will be as much of a surprise to me as to anybody. My current task is to re-introduce Sam and Wilma with enough background to satisfy new readers to the series without boring those who’ve been around from the start.

As a side note, the ranks of those starting with the first book grows each time I do a signing with all of my backlist on the table. Two people bought all four McKenzie books last Saturday when I signed at the Cheatham County Public Library. Ya gotta love those folks.

And it’ll be interesting getting re-acquainted with the Gannons.


Helen Ginger said...

One of the best things about a series, imo, is following the characters from book to book. They grow, you learn more about them, look forward to seeing them from book to book, and seeing how they interact with each other.

Congrats on the growing popularity of your series. That's wonderful!

Straight From Hel

Beth Terrell said...

Chester, it will be good to meet up with the Gannons again.

Pretty soon that snowball effect of gaining readers is going to build up enough to become an avalanche. When that happens, can I come and visit you in your new mansion?

Chester Campbell said...

Thanks, Helen. I think that's one of the fun parts of writing a series, too.

Beth, with global warming, my mansion will probably be a tent.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Chester, you've just received the Kreativ Bloggers Award. Read the rules at Mysterious People and pass it on to seven other bloggers.

Sheila Deeth said...

Sounds fascinating. I like series where the characters reappear without it seeming forced. I'll look out for these.

Chester Campbell said...

Thanks for dropping by, Sheila. The books are available on Amazon and my website. The first three in the series are out of print, so they can't be ordered from a bookstore.