Suppose you were a successfully published writer who had a well developed, and well liked, main character. But a problem arises: you want to put that character in a different century and in a different social/ethnic/cultural background in order to solve a crime.

A major problem. But what do you think of this idea? You put that character in that setting and you give the character all the traits (and perhaps a few more) of the one already established. But instead of calling him 'Jon Champion' you call him 'John Rogers Champion.' You make your historical character the great-great grandfather of the current character.

Why wouldn't it work? Character traits run in families through genetics. Why not this? What do you think (and has this ever been tried before?)

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Jon, but what I have in mind would not invoke any of these devices. In no way am I directly suggesting one must be connected to the other. But the implied connection within the reader's mind will be there. So this implication has to be addressed in some logical, and acceptable, format. Thus some form of family-saga.
I like the family saga idea.

Elmore Leonard has now linked up his westerns and his modern day crime stories through the Webster stories. The current Webster is the grandson of the Webster in the westerns.
Oh hell, if Leonard's doing it, the sky's the limit! Go for it, B.R.
Dan--talking to yourself is a fine way to keep a conversation going. I do it all the time.
I think it's a cool idea. But won't there be problems with the different audiences? Sci-Fi, historical for instance.
What the author has in mind, Jack, is a straight-up kind of detective/adventure novel he already is very good at doing. Again. the idea is to have a separate novel completely. But making the character essentially the same one as is in the current era. The same . . . but slightly different. The author wants to use this character. . . the question is how to do it without becoming Sci-Fi.
How about this...

No explanation at all.

Just have it be what it is, and that's all that it is. No genetics, no explanations, no convoluted machinations, he just happens to live in different times and different places.
In the end, I think this is exactly what should be done, D.R.
Simplicity is best, and if anyone gripes about it, just look at them like they're an idiot and say: "Oh, you didn't get it... sorry."
The 'great story rule' applies here. It's fine to do something like this, but only if the story is greater than what you're asking the audience to go along with. Personally I like family history being used to explain certain traits, but if the character is too much like his future generation self then the audience might not buy it...unless it's a great story. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button when you look at it is a silly and impossible concept, but it works because the story is great.
Would you be taking the chance that your "well developed, and well liked, main character" may not be so well liked or well suited to a totally different context? What characteristics are going to be sacrificed?

The example that just popped into my head is Lucas Davenport from the "Prey" series by Sanford. Can you imagine Davenport teaming up with Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot? The characteristics that make Davenport so well suited for the Prey novels would not translate terribly well without serious overhaul. The end result is a character that is not Davenport.

Short of time travel or some other deus ex machina, people are a reflection of their times.
This has certainly provoked a lot more response than I would've thought. Here's my 2 cents.

It sounds like what you're trying is a variation on the "Universal Soldier" theme. Not a bad idea if you don't stay in one place or one century for too long. If you've already entrenched a character in a specific time and place (as you apparently have), then the idea of using an ancestor or a descendant is a good one.

I have recently completed an as-yet unpublished novel in which my central character is a private investigator in the early 2000s, but is the grandson of Mike Barnett, who was a TV private eye in the early 1950s. The TV show was called Man Against Crime and starred Ralph Bellamy. I draw several sharp distinctions between Mike Barnett and my character, his grandson, but the effect of continuity is there nonetheless. What you're talking about sounds like a similar thing. Why not go for it?
--Mike Dennis
Las Vegas


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