Genre Angst

by Running as Fast as I Can
( Canada)

BACKGROUND INFO:

I have finally accepted that -- in my series of Christian novels -- I must let the reader know in the first page or so of each title what in general they can expect this book to be.

Each title focuses on the search of one person 75% of the time a female for love. Some end with a happily ever after / some not so much. Some contain a fair bit of suspense / some only to a minor degree.

One novel where I thought I knew the plotline inside out turns out to be unsatisfying and I've accepted it's that the issue on page one is not sufficiently related to what's in the final few pages. I'm working on a rewrite to address this but I need some expert advice.

Page One: The twenty-something heroine is frustrated at the antics of two guys vying for her attentions: One has been in the friend / family zone for years and the other is a charismatic, seductive stranger.

Plotline: Neither of them gets the girl. Heroine only chooses to let friend become love of her life a bit after he has given up the chase. Stranger's been gone for quite a while by then. Friend's a good guy but stranger is bad to the bone.

SPECIFIC QUESTION:
I can up the drama / tighten up the plot convincingly fairly simply by having bad stranger show up right at the end, long after we thought him long gone. I can easily modify opening and rest of book to lead up to this unexpected and chilling encounter.

If I do, though, am I creating the expectation that all future love-seeking stories in the series will also have a big element of suspense? Because not all of them can be re-imagined in this fashion.

Thanks so much for your advice. It is always right on the money.

Answer: I think your question relates to how you are defining your series.

It sounds like each book in your series will feature a different main character. (You don't want one heroine to have multiple loves-of-her-life, I assume, this being a Christian series.) This fact alone makes the books much more loosely connected than, for example, a trilogy or a detective series.

Fortunately, you get to choose what these books will have in common, what makes them a series as opposed to unrelated stories.

There are series so loosely defined that the only thing they have in common is the genre and the series title. (For instance, the Goosebumps children's series.)

And there are series in which the only thing the stories have in common is that they take place in the same story world (for instance, the same town).

Of course, you have to ask yourself why you are writing a series rather than separate stories. The usual reason is that so a reader who likes one book will be inclined to read the others, knowing that they are connected. (The other reason is that it can be less work for the writer, but that's not something we talk about.)

In this case, I see no problem in the fact that the plots of these books will not be carbon copies of each other. But you should define what connection the stories will have with each other -- setting? theme? a few crossover characters?

Incidentally, it sounds like your genre is Christian Romance. Harlequin and other romance publishers often create categories for such subgenres. Categories are perhaps the loosest type of series because they don't even have the same author in common. Nonetheless, each category has certain requirements that must be met so readers can know what type of story they are getting. If you want to write category romances, you should check out these requirements on the publishers' websites.

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Oct 19, 2015
Right on the Money
by: Running As Fast as I Can

Thanks so much, Glen. This couldn't be better news.

Harlequin's Citadel line was the inciting event for my even beginning to try to write. I am a Christian novelist or I am not a writer at all.

I too see my genre as Christian Romance with a bit of a genre-bending twist here and there, so recognising that this is a series within a subgenre offers me - for the first time - the hope of being marketable.

What unites these books and makes my series unique came together nicely early on. What has stymied me is: [i] How do I take each manuscript from sort of okay to a can't-put-it-down winner? and [ii] How do I get an agent / editor to take a look at it, much less think it will sell?

After reading your remarks over and over, I feel genuinely optimistic for the first time that I am not indulging in a pipe dream but working toward a potentially achievable goal.

Thanks so much again.


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