Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pitching Stories With Similar Characters or Settings?

So, here was the question...

If one wanted to submit several stories that have the same location or setting, or include several of the same characters, how does one go about describing what this group of stories is to an agent or publisher if they are not a series. Any advice will be appreciated!

This is a great question and the answer really isn't that complicated.

If you have a series of books that are linked, not so much thematically, but more with a similar character or a setting, then simply tell the editor or agent what you are doing. The key, however, is to somehow show why you are going to use the same setting or characters over and over again.

With stories that use the same characters, it is much easier. Maybe the stories are linked because we are going to see those characters in similar situations. For example, think of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, or even Ian Fleming's James Bond series. The books all have similar plot structures but what the readers get to see is how the characters are going to react and behave in different situations.

Now, if the books are linked because there is an ongoing plot line (Think Harry Potter here), then you pitch the stories with the over-arching theme or plot and then show how each of the books are still meeting specific smaller end goals. In the case of Mr. Potter, the over-arching theme is the battle between Harry and Voldemort and working toward that final battle in the Deathly Hollows books. But when we look at each of the books, Chamber of Secrets is focused on  both introducing the characters but really emphasizing the mystery of what this Chamber was holding and how it is disrupting the school and putting so many people at risk. The story has a clear ending with the solving of that mystery.

Another twist to this would be the multiple series of Andrew Greeley. In his stories, he not only had several series based around a single character (his Nuala Anne McGrail series, his Blackie Ryan series), but he would often cross some of those characters over into the different series. Blackie Ryan shows up in the Nualal Anne McGrail series and so forth.

When pitching something like this, it is important to do several things. First of all, make sure the first series is fully established and is independent. Secondly, to fully justify why you are bringing in the character from the other book. It is important to note, however, that if you have crossed those characters over into another series, that readers are not going to have to know the whole backstory of that character. In the case of the Greeley series, when those characters show up, they just happen to be a name and a body. The surprise only comes when someone has read the other books and starts to see the genius of the author and smoothly making that move work.

When we look at stories around a similar location, such as Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series, the emphasis is not just about the individual stories and plots, but also how the town and setting also functions in much of the same ways as a character. Another great example of this would be Lake Wobegon and Garrison Keillor. We get to know the town and those same random characters that pop up from time to time.

In summary, there is nothing wrong with taking an approach such as this, but the key is to be able to justify why you are doing this as an author and what the "take away" is for the reader.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much! The answer is "easier" than I expected. Justify and the take away. I've got it. Kate M.