It started out so innocently.
I was over at author Nicole Petrino-Salter's blog (http://hopeofglory.typepad.com/into_the_fire/2012/01/that-time-of-the-year-.html) yesterday, where she posted about The Academy Awards. Simple post on entertainment, right?
Well, as usual my brain went a different way with it. Conversations like this typically lead to favorite movies, who you think is going to win, etc.
But instead, I was thinking about the fact that I watch very few movies. I'm different than most people that way. Sure, part of the reason I watch few movies is content--most of the stuff released today has content I'm not willing to compromise myself on. But in truth, even as a kid, I never watched many movies--not even western films. And the western was by far my favorite.
So in that innocent little post about The Academy Awards, I realized I've ALWAYS been about recurring characters, rather than stand-alone novels, even before I began to write. For example:
* I've always been about series TV. Gunsmoke, Five-0, Bonanza, and a zillion other shows you can name. The same recurring characters--a chance to know them well, grow with them, have adventures with them.
* I've read lots of books in my day and some are certainly stand-alone novels. BUT--a very large percentage of the books I read growing up were all about--you guessed it, recurring characters. I devoured The Hardy Boys books (still love to read the original series occasionally); I bought nearly every original Star Trek novel from the 70's and early 80's featuring my favorite triad of Spock, Kirk and McCoy (sadly, since those days there just hasn't BEEN a plethora of good Trek novels.). Even my all time favorite novel, Zane Grey's Forlorn River, had a follow up novel based on one of the lead characters. And while epic novels are stand alone novels, they dig deeper and carry a story farther than most regular length fiction, and I'd rather read an epic any day than a short bunny-hop.
* My need for recurring characters extends to sports. As a kid growing up in Maryland, I'd watch the Orioles play. But eventually the Eddie Murrays, the Cal Ripkens etc got traded or retired, and suddenly I was watching a group of strangers on the field. Baseball was no longer interesting. In tennis, I was planted in front of my television or, occasionally going to a tennis tournament where I could watch my two favorite players, Stefan Edberg and Andre Agassi play tennis. But first Stefan Edberg retired, then Andre. Tennis was no longer interesting. And I haven't watched tennis since.
It's a built in requirement of my make-up to surround myself with recurring characters, both in fact and fiction.
I'm not sure the revelation is helpful in any way, but at least it explains why I'm always mired in a continuing storyworld and books in a series rather than hopping from one novel to the next of unrelated characters.
Perhaps it's a tip-off to me. Writing books is hard work. Writing books in a series is even harder, because you don't have to think about just the first book, but the timeline and character arc of your characters over multiple books. In short, it means extra headaches and hand-wringing. Because of that, I spend a lot of time trying to wrestle myself into the stand-alone category of novels.
But perhaps rather than trying to force myself to write the way others do because their way must certainly be better than my way, I should instead just go with the way I was programmed, write my stories, and see what happens. After all, with the digital book explosion, the short story market is making a bit of a comeback, so I always have the option to publish short stories for material I develop that may not be novel length that emerges during my process of creating storyworld.