When I conceived the idea for my first mystery/suspense novel, Mixed Messages, my goal was to write a stand alone novel. I planned to introduce and develop my characters, tell their story and, by the end of the book, tie up any loose ends, leaving the reader satisfied. My plan is still basically the same but my goal has changed.

As I got further and further into writing my novel, I realized that, for various reasons, I didn't want to say "goodbye" to my characters; they had more to say and do. So, I decided to write a sequel, Unfinished Business. I'm now in the early stages of plotting the third novel in the series. My characters refuse to let me go.

While I've read and enjoyed many stand alone novels, I've found that they often leave me wanting more; I want to know where the story and the characters go from there. I love reading mystery series because I like getting to know the characters and following them from book to book. For example, I eagerly await V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton. I will be sad when I finish reading the last in the A-Z series because Kinsey Millhone has become almost like a friend to me, as have some of Sue's other characters. Also, I've recently read Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan and I'm eager to read the other books in her series. Her main character, Mattie Winston, is absolutely hilarious; I laughed out loud as I read. And, there are so many others.

I realize that stating that my characters won't let me go may sound silly to anyone who doesn't write fiction but I'm convinced that other writers get it. The proof of that, I think, is in the publication of so many series. While authors like Sue Grafton sign on from the start to write a series, I believe that many others find themselves in the same position that I did. The first novel is finished but the characters are begging for a second book to be written. And a third. . . .

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And so, what is the question?
Well, I guess the question is: which do you prefer and why?

Some kinds of fiction lend themselves to stand alone. However, I believe mysteries and thrillers are one of those that beg for sequels. And, once a writer/reader gets drawn to the character creation, it is really hard to let go--unless you just kill them off. So, keep writing sequels, Patricia, and find where your characters want to take you.

Thanks, Mark. I'll do that. I'm eager to get busy writing the third novel for my series.
I get it.  When writing my first novel, "The Boss of Hampton Beach," I had a character killed off.  When working on my second, "Hampton Beach Homicide," with the same protagonist, I realized that the dead man would be a perfect sidekick for Dan Marlowe, my bartender protagonist.  I went back & rewrote the first novel so he wasn't killed just seriously injured.  It hadn't been sold, so why not?
Good comeback and good luck with your series.
Spin offs, I say! Screw the series and spin everything off.
Good idea!

On the other hand, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle couldn't kill Sherlock Holmes fast enough.

 

Only the readers, thank goodness, insisted he resurrect him!

I wish he'd followed his instinct.
Stand alone vs. series....first I don't exactly get with the term "stand alone" but I still can't think of a better term yet. A novel doesn't stand alone, it just is. Maybe a novel is a movie and a series is a TV show. The last series that hooked me was the Andrew Vachss "Burke" series and it was a hot affair while it lasted then it reached a point where...well...we both wanted different things. Do you find a series loses its freshness at some point? Either way there is that sweet spot until it does and that is what we want to recreate ourselves. If you have characters who won't let you go they are people who get you out of bed every morning and can make your life something cooler for years to come. Been crash testing mine for 15 years now. It grows and evolves with you. They can be a drug of their own. And other people will get the same effect from your series.
I agree, Raymond. It's great when you have characters who "get you out of bed every morning." It sure makes life - and writing - interesting!

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