Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Welcome Wednesday chats with Frances di Plino

Welcome Wednesday says hello again to fellow Crooked Cat author Frances di Plino.

It's fantastic that Frances can be with us today since this is a very busy and exciting week for her. This coming Friday, 16th August,  Frances' second Detective Paolo Storey novel -  Someday Never Comes- will be launched. I really enjoyed the first in the series - Bad Moon Rising - and look forward to reading this new one. 

Frances is sharing something with us that's very good to be aware of if you are inclined to take on characters from an initial story into follow-on novels...

Taking Characters Forward in a Series
One of the challenging aspects of writing a series of books is carrying the cast of each book forward in terms of time span, character development and unresolved issues. Readers of series books get to know the characters and start to look on them as friends. This means they can never act out of character unless something momentous happens to force them to do so. For example, a man giving up the location of his wife to someone he knows wants to hurt her. What could force him to do such a thing? It would have to be outside of the normal boundaries of everyday life, such as being the only way he could save their children from the people hunting her down. In this example, he would be able to justify his actions and salve his conscience with the knowledge that she would willingly sacrifice herself to save her offspring.

I followed an American crime writer (who shall remain nameless for reasons about to become clear). I loved his books – devoured them as soon as each was available. And then he did the unthinkable, he made not one, not two, or even three, but ALL of his regular characters act in a way that  was completely outside of the type of person he had built each of them to be. I found myself at the end of the book saying, no, they wouldn’t do that! Even though he’d built a scenario whereby it was conceivable that one or two (at a push) would act out of character, it defied belief that they all would.

The result? One of my favourite authors lost a devoted fan – and I bet I wasn’t the only one.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, from a writer’s point of view, I think there are three key areas to watch out for when penning a series.

Time span
A character who is in his early forties in book one needs to age over the time span of the series, but you don’t want to do this in actual years as (unless you write very quickly) you could find your character drawing a pension by book five, which would end the series.

For the above reason, I would suggest not mentioning the year in which the story is taking place and try not to tie in the storyline with actual events. For a standalone book, this isn’t an issue. In fact, it can help to add veracity to the storyline. But for a series, readers could easily pick up on the character being a certain age when x happens, so expect him or her to be y when another real life event takes place. Just because you might have taken two years between books to get the next one written and published, this doesn’t mean you want your character to have grown two years older.

Frances di Plino
Character development
However, taking the aging process out of the equation, what we do want to happen is for our characters to develop over a series of books. This means events in each book should have an impact on the way the character reacts to proceedings in every book that follows.

Readers will identify far more if characters evolve as real people would. In the first of my crime series, Bad Moon Rising, one of the supporting cast is portrayed as a borderline misogynist, but he is an on-going character, so this gives me the chance to show him evolving from his early unlikeable persona into someone readers can care about. But this can’t take place too quickly. He has to learn bit by bit to confront and deal with his issues, just as a real life person would.

Unresolved issues
In a series writers have a little more flexibility about tying up loose ends. In my series, of course all the important aspects of each crime must be resolved, but that doesn’t apply to the personal issues my characters face.

For example, when we first meet Detective Inspector Paolo Storey, we learn that his marriage is coming to an end, one of his daughters is dead and he has relationship issues with a colleague. I could easily have ended Bad Moon Rising with these areas neatly tied up, but real life doesn’t work that way. Paolo will need to sort out his personal life over the course of the series. Will he eventually find happiness? That depends on what life throws at him.

In Someday Never Comes, the second in the series, the characters have moved on from the first book, but they all still have a lot of growing to do. Readers have commented on how much they like Paolo. I have to make sure they continue to do so, but he also has to evolve into an older and wiser man – but not too quickly. I don’t want his journey to end for a few books yet.

That's great advice, Frances. Thanks for sharing that with us today.

About Frances:
Frances di Plino is the pseudonym of columnist, editor, non-fiction author, short story writer, poet and writing tutor, Lorraine Mace. Writing as Frances di Plino gives her the opportunity to allow the dark side of her personality to surface and take control. Someday Never Comes, the latest in the Detective Inspector Paolo Storey series, which follows on from highly acclaimed Bad Moon Rising, will be released by Crooked Cat Publishing on 16 August.

Frances/Lorraine can be found at: 

Blurb for Someday Never Comes
Has Detective Inspector Paolo Storey come up against a criminal he cannot defeat? Paolo is determined to shut down the syndicate flooding Bradchester’s streets with young prostitutes. When a child is murdered, Paolo becomes aware of a sinister network of abusers spread across Europe, and spanning all levels of society. But Joey, the shadowy leader of the gang, always seems to be one step ahead in the chase.

 “dark and uncomfortably believable.” JJ Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs Series

 Link for Amazon UK: 

My very best wishes to you, Frances,  for the launch of - Someday Never Comes - on Friday!



  1. Thank you so much for inviting me to post on a subject which I think is very important.

  2. Hello Frances. It's a pleasure having you visit. Best wishes.

  3. Great insight into the challenges (and pleasures) of writing a series. As a writer of stand-alone literary fiction I can identify with some of these challenges, especially the ones related to real-life growth and development. I dislike stories that end with everything nice and tidy, because--as you say--real life doesn't happen that way. Sure, the central conflict (will the girl get the guy? will the guy and his alcoholic father resolve their issues? will the homophobe defend his lifelong best friend once he finds out he's gay?) can be--perhaps should be--resolved, but "everyone lived happily ever after" doesn't quite cut it for me. So in a sense, these tips you share for serials can also serve to enrich stand-alone books by extending the story's "viability" past the ending--and the beginning. Lots to think about there :) Thanks so much for sharing, Frances, and I wish you spectacular success with the second book in your series. Nancy, thank you for having Frances over and sharing these insights. Great stuff.

    1. Hi Guilie, thanks for popping in and leaving such lovely comments. I'm delighted to have guest authors visit and you'd be welcome anytime.


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