Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Linking Stories

Readers love stories like this, especially if the stories are really strong. I'm talking about stories that have characters that keep showing up time and time again. I'm talking about spin off stories with secondary characters from an earlier book. Andrew Greely has done this amazingly well with his Nula McGregor stories and those that link with his mystery series. It must be this reason that I see time and time again, new writers pitching stories that do just this. But...
and you knew I would add that word...
I am personally of the opinion that a new writer should not approach their writing this way.
Let me explain with an example that has happened several times now with submissions coming across my desk.
A writer sends me a story that is book 1 in a series. I reject it due to any number of reasons but for this case, let me just say it is due to the premise of the story. The writing is good but I am not so hot on the idea behind the story. Still, I would be willing to see something else the person wants to submit. So they send me their second book in the series. Hmmmm????
The problem is simple. There is too much in the second book that relies on what happened in the first book. Along with that, if the premise of #1 doesn't work, then the problem will remain in the second.
The solution is really easy though. When you write the stories, write each as if it is a stand alone story. Use different names, different cities and so forth. Make sure that readers really don't need to read the stories in order. But, keep the stories set in such a fashion that you can easily do a "CHANGE ALL" function and link the stories.
I guess the other thing I need to stress is that although your secondary characters in one book may be fun, it doesn't necessarily mean the characters need their own story.


  1. I think there are also particular genres where secondary characters with their own histories and their own novels don't work for the simple reason that the genre can't handle it.

    Romances hold a lot of promise, but mainstream fiction and literary fiction is driven by the unique premise of one character, and it's hard for a reader to transition within similar contexts.

    Take that with a grain of salt. :)

    Great post. And, again, what writers honestly think the second book in a series is equivalent to "seeing something else"? Come on!

    Thanks for the insight.


  2. Weronika,
    I think you are on the right track here but this really is a situational thing. I have seen a lot of "literary fiction" stories out there that have the ability to expand to other characters.