Sunday, February 12, 2006

A neurotic interlude

Writing the second book in a trilogy or series isn't easy, and since this is the first time I'm doing it, I'm freaking out (of course). I have written a series before (Kane's Crossing for Special Edition), but a trilogy isn't nearly equivalent to writing another book about a different romance that takes place in the same town as the first. I'm not focusing on a relationship between Couple Two with cameos by Couple One and appearances from the characters who will someday be Couples Three, Four, and Five. I'm not even developing a secondary continuity thread, book by book, like the power struggles to dominate Kane's Crossing between different families.

Oh, no. This is totally different.

What I'm doing with the Vampire Underground books is walking a fine line between boring returning readers and catching new ones up with what happened in the first book--events that are integral to plot twists and character development in this story as well as the third. Exactly how does an author make the returning reader happy right off the bat without weighing the pacing with lots of backstory? (Sure, the returning readers will need a refresher about the details since there'll be at least six months between each Vampire Underground release, but there's a certain point where enough becomes enough.) And how does an author pull in that new reader without thoroughly confusing them with too few backstory details?

Lastly, here are two more things to consider: How does an author make the action/setting/tone of the second book fresh while keeping it familiar and retaining the essence of what worked in the first story? And how does an author make the characters grow through another emotional, mental, and/or physical arc without throwing that returning reader off balance and ticking them off because "the main character would never do that"?

I guess I'm about to find out as I forge onward. As I plotted this second book, which I'm calling DR. ETERNITY for a work-in-progress title, I tried to keep all these points in mind. I'm also channeling two of my favorite bodies of work that overcame these roadblocks very successfully: the HARRY POTTER novels and the original STAR WARS trilogy. I mean, think of how Harry faces a new "mystery"/challenge every time and how he also has to grow as a person (and sometimes he isn't even that likeable, although I'd never desert him). Think of the first three STAR WARS movies: A NEW HOPE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and RETURN OF THE JEDI and how Luke changed right along with the state of the rebellion.

Oddly enough, during the plotting phase of DR. ETERNITY, I felt some EMPIRE STRIKES BACK vibes. Although the first Vampire Underground book is fairly dark, this one looks to go even deeper into that territory. And speaking as someone who holds great admiration for EMPIRE, I'm happy about that. We'll see how well it works....

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