Monday, March 17, 2008

Ageless Characters

Since connecting books (well in my case) series books has been brought up here on the blog, I'm going to throw out my latest quandry.

The connecting books you are all talking about won't have the problem I'm facing, but I thought all your brillant minds put together might help me make the decision. I'm in the planning stages of a series (15-20) books if all goes well. They will be along the lines of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and Sue Grafton's alpahbet series. Over the years thier two characters haven't aged much and being as they are set in the present or what was present at the time of the stories they don't seem to worry to much about a timeline.

But, I'm planning a historical series set in the 1880's and, if all goes well, could go into the 1890's. My goal was to use factual events in the books- ie; train and bank hold ups, assassinations, that sort of thing. Which means, I would have to research and find enough events in chronological order so the books didn't bounce from 1888 back to 1884. My best guessimate is to have three books fit one year. So three consecutive books would come out written in the year 1885 and so on. My problem with this is by the time I get to 1889-90 my characters will have had to have aged ten years and that's a long time for the heroine to keep the hero interested and not marry him.

Or do you believe a reader could extend the belief and if written right they wouldn't mind the notion if after ten years of cat and mouse the couple finally marry? Or do readers even think about the time frame if the stories have taken them on a journey? My plan is to have a HEA for secondary characters in every book, but the two main characters relationship will be stretched out until she finally gives in.

I'm interested in all your takes on this.

BTW- the picture is of my newest grand'kids'!


Lisa Pulliam said...

Cute pic!! :) Wow, that sounds like fun to plan! I haven't read the Stephanie Plum series, but two of my coworkers read it religiously and LOVE it. I just asked one of them what she thought about the romance. She told me there's two main guys in the romance angle with her. But she said that to her, the timeline of all the books is about 2 years and she finds that believable.

We both talked about a 10-year span and thought the same thing. It would be very difficult to keep a romance for that long. 1) it's not quite realistic to imagine them being single for 10 years and not getting together. 2) if they weren't single, it would be even more difficult to watch the other in a relationship. It seems to me that a 10-year span would be more of a drama or non HEA book.

But, if there were other circumstances like he was at war for a few years. Or she had a child and wanted to wait until the kid was a certain age. And if the books had romantic interludes - I think it could work. Keep in mind I haven't read many historicals lol. I understand that 10 years would feel like a different amount of time then, compared to now. How's that for roundabout opinions? BTW - I love the idea of secondary romance HEAs in each book. My favorite authors do that, it makes the books more full (to me anyway). AWESOME idea Paty!!! I can't wait to see how this develops :)

Alice Sharpe said...

Love the picture. They're adorable, coochie- coochie (that's a sound made by adults when speaking to babies. I'm explaining this so Eli doesn't accuse me of hitting the bottle at 9:30 in the morning.)

I have no trouble with ten years passing and have seen it done any number of times although not in straight romance. That doesn't mean it hasn't been done, I just haven't seen it. In one mystery series, the guy is madly in love with the woman, they've been friends their whole lives, but he's afraid of losing her friendship...

Then there was that movie, My Best Friend's Wedding with Julia Robert, where she and her friend vow to marry one another if they're both single in ten years. Ten years pass, she's ready, but he's found the love of his life.

Stephanie Plum has been leading Joe Morelli on for years in their on again/off again antics.

Inserting a secondary love relationship in each book is good. It might be tricky always having the heroine flit away from the hero, as it gets to feeling like same old, same old after awhile. That's how I feel about Stephanie Plum right now, just kind of tired of the same dilemmas over and over again. Perhaps the key is how many books pass for the reader, not how many "book years."

And. too, I would imagine that one or both of them would occasionally fall for someone else.

As always, your ambition is inspiring and your ideas sound like great fun!

Alice Sharpe said...

I just had another thought. Maybe they do marry at some point, but maybe they're too different, and since divorce wasn't that common at this time, perhaps they live apart and when they run into each other, fireworks ensue. That way, perhaps they could spend a couple of books getting ready to marry, a book married, something tears them apart, on and off again for a few more books...

Just a thought. Maybe it will inspire something lurking in the corner of your brain!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Paty, I'm confused. Are you planning two different series - one set in modern times over a short time span and one set in the 1800s over a longer time span?

I agree with the others in that after ten years of cat and mouse, a reader would have trouble staying hooked on the relationship. I'm assuming the romance here will be very secondary to the main plot (whatever that may be). If these are true romances, I don't see how that could work.

I do like Alice's idea about them marrying - having the courting phase, the marriage phase, seeing them break up but not divorcing. I think that would be much more believable (especially given the era) than the two simply going back and forth and being wishy-washy where the relationship is concerned.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks Lisa and Alice!

Don't worry there will be sparks in each book! What keeps them apart are their occupations and sense of justice. Kind of like Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty. Only my heroine isn't a saloon owner! She works along the same lines as the hero, only she doesn't have to be as ethical as he does. Which causes part of their riff as well.

If I made up events, maybe sort of like the real ones, I could get by without naming exact times and then the reader wouldn't know the length of time between say the first book and the 10th-15th. hmmmmm.

That ten year span was bugging me too. After all what man is going to wait that long for a woman to come around to his way of thinking. Of course after 10 years he should be ready to retire from his job (due to stress and travel) and want to settle down. Which would make for some more good conflict down the road, when she isn't ready.

Sorry just kind of brain storming through my fingers! LOL

Paty Jager said...

Oh and those aren't my goats! They belong to my oldest daughter. She had to have a milking goat, got tired of milking and had the nanny her bred and now she's hoping to sell all of them to a 4-Her! LOL She was our dairy girl growing up and had a Holstien milk cow. Now she's decided that's too much commitment!

Paty Jager said...

Eli, No I'm just planning one series, set in the 1880's. I'm just trying to figure out how to make it last through multiple books, without spanning the 10 years. Or wondering if that 10 years will be a detrimental factor.

I could always have them marry and continue what they do, only with her supposedly not working any more and showing up in middle of the hero's assignment.

Danita Cahill said...

Paty, good topic. I think we're all interested in connected books right now.

As for Stephanie Plum, she never ages. I think she moves through various seasons, but she's always 30. Kinsey Milhone ages very very slowly. It works for me. I don't care about aging. At least not in books. Ha!

Now keeping a romance alive over the course of that many books would be a real challenge. Even the juggling act with Ms. Plum and the whole Morelli/Ranger triangle gets old to a lot of people. I don't mind it, but I've heard a lot of people say it gets tiresome. Sure doesn't seem to hurt Janet Evanovich's numbers of sales, or one million or so hits on her website every month!

I think for the romance, you need to come up with an angle, maybe one cowboy is absent a lot on cattle drives or something and another is head over heels for the heroine and tries to woo her while the first cowboy is gone. Maybe she almost gives in -- because he keeps her safe, gives her what she thinks she needs/wants -- and then BAM! enter the roving alpha cow poke again.

There's a character in one of the Lonesome Dove episodes that goes through this sort of thing, only she's in love with a character who is rough, unemotional and clueless. It's hard for me to care much about him, but she does.

Danita Cahill said...

PS cute kids! Our neighbors just got a couple baby goats too, to keep their ornery steer company.

Karen Duvall said...

Paty, I love this idea! It's not a genre I usually read, but this series still sounds original to me. I keep thinking of The Wild Wild West. Remember that show? Of course, it was bizarre with all it's fun gadgets, but it was still mystery/suspense/espionage, etc., based on real historical events that were totally embellished. Kind of like alternate history. I loved that show, and then the movie with Will Smith is fantastic, IMO.

I like Alice's idea of giving the H/h an on-again, off-again relationship. Ten years would be too long, as others have said, to sustain a regular romance angle.

Good luck with it!

Paty Jager said...

I'd kind of made a secondary mentor/possible love interest in the idea, but didn't want to be too closely related to J.E.'s books.

The hero is a U.S. Marshal so he would be off doing his thing and she works for a detective agency so she would be doing her thing and it's when their paths collide while both are working the same event/crime that things get interesting. They are attracted, but she uses any means to get her end result, where he can't play unfair as he is an officer of the courts. And her helper/mentor is a half-breed who shifts between cultures depending on what's in it for him.

Danita Cahill said...

Sounds really fun, Paty. Can't wait to read them!

You'll figure out a way to make them work. Wow, you are juggling so many projects right now, it makes my head whirl.

I'm juggling a few, but on a lot smaller scale.

Genene said...

Paty, I'm glad you added the explanation about the picture, as I wasn't sure if you were writing in a totally different direction with shapeshifters or what!

Love your idea for a series. Knowing you are brainstorming that many books doesn't make my 9-book series seem so daunting.

I'm chattering because all the good comments have been offered by others! I really like Alice's suggestion of perhaps having the main characters marrying at some point and then being apart. Perhaps they married each other under "forced" circumstances so have some second thoughts afterward??

In other series books I've read, I don't really think about the characters aging. But I don't think about me aging either unless something specific comes up -- like seeing some older woman in photos of someone who is supposed to be me. LOL!

However, I do get tired of the cat-and-mouse romance game if the characters just can't make up their minds. If there are persuasive explanations of why they can't get together, fine. Perhaps one of your characters is already married before they meet? A duty marriage perhaps and they are honor bound to stay in that marriage until something happens to the spouse in one of your books. Though you might have to watch how many sparks fly though so they didn't cross the line of propriety, but that might be an interesting way to keep them apart.

Like Lisa said, I too am looking forward to seeing how this develops. It sounds very interesting!