Too many ideas for the same character

by Natasha S.
(Canada)

Question: Hey! I've been having this problem for a good few years now... I have a set of characters I would like to make a book for, but I don't know which story to insert them in. I was planning to put these guys into fantasy but then suddenly I find myself conjuring ideas of them being in other genres like romance, mystery, even sci-Fi. Basically my problem is I'm so attached to these characters I want to reuse them all for different plots! What could I do!?


Answer: I believe it was Josh Whedon who said that science fiction is every genre because every genre can and has been incorporated into science fiction. Hence, we have seen SF romances, SF mysteries, SF adventures, SF Westerns, etc. And there are lots of cross-genre stories that don't involve science fiction.

You could consider having a series of novels or stories in which your characters have many types of adventures.

For example, many episodic TV series have been based on the premise of a hero or group of adventurers who travel to a different community each week where they tackle a different problem. Some examples would be Star Trek, Kung Fu, Quantum Leap, Wild Wild West, The Dollhouse, Dr. Who, and Xena: Warrior Princess.

Admittedly, the episodic format has ceded ground recently to series with long series arcs, thanks in part to streaming and the demand for best sellers in publishing. But it's still a valid approach.

Your challenge is to create a premise that is flexible enough or big enough to include all the types of story you want to tell. For instance, you may want to choose a setting, a place and time in which your characters live or at least come from. Either they can be enticed to travel to find problems to solve, or problems can come to them.

Often it works to give your characters something special that draws them into adventures. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a hellmouth under her school. The crew of the Jupiter 2 accidentally became "Lost in Space." H. G. Wells' hero invented a time machine that acts as a portal to adventure. Sherlock Holmes' career as a consulting detective attracts clients with interesting problems. The Fugitive must constantly move to new towns because he is being relentlessly pursued.

If your readers fall in love with your characters after going on one adventure with them, they may want to go on more adventures (in other books).

Of course, one challenge with an episodic series is that your main character cannot change much during the course of each adventure. He/she must maintain his essential drive/nature/approach otherwise he will not be the same person in the next book. Hence, characters like Captain Kirk never really grow. Their inner conflict is usually resolved by their choosing to remain steadfast at each climax (despite the temptation to change).

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