Letting go of characters

My first novels were stand-alone, and even though readers wanted to know what happened to characters after the last page, although I knew their continuing story, I never ever wrote about them. Sometimes I used the bones of their imagined next adventure to write something else, changing the characters, their situation, the setting, so probably only I was aware that the origins lay in some other story. However when I almost by chance wrote a sequel which led to a third part, which led to the final part, which led to further adventures in the lives of a set of characters, the Radwinters, this changed.

Just as in real life we make friends and then lose them as we move or they move or life changes or there’s just a failing of a close friendship, so it happens in the lives of my characters. However, I’ve been really careful not to become too keen on some of the walk-ons, and have them appear unless there is a real reason for them to. I do take care to mention past ‘cases’ and events and who was involved, it would be unreal not to, I think. I do give certain ‘others’ a rest. In the first Radwinter story the main character, Thomas, met up with someone who had terrorised him when he was at school. This former bully had changed, and over the next few books appeared more regularly, but then, he became busy with his own life, and has drifted away – he may return, but only if he needs to do so. Someone else who had a flower shop appeared as a casual walk-on, but then later in a couple of stories became one of the main characters. In my latest novel which I am still trying to finish, Thomas is taken completely out of his normal environment, so the only contact he has with friends and family is through email and messaging. I thought this would be easy and straightforward – but it has thrown up several writing problems i didn’t anticipate!

I am addicted to a series of novels by Elly Griffiths; they follow the life and adventure of an archaeologist and bone expert, Ruth Galloway and her involvement in various police investigations when bones have been discovered. I’m on number nine now, ‘The Chalk Pit’, and i fear that I only have a couple more to go! Ruth is the main character and works at an imagined university in north Norfolk; she works there throughout the series so obviously her colleagues feature in many of the books. The other main character is a detective inspector, Harry Nelson, and although his team of officers change, as is realistic, the same characters reoccur. Both Ruth and Nelson have families, which don’t really change, and they also have mutual friends as well as their own friends and colleagues. Without, I hope, spoiling the stories for anyone just starting to read them (lucky you! – and I really recommend you read them in order) a feature of the novels is how nearly everyone mentioned as a main player, and a couple who at first just feature in a particular novel, becomes involved with one another either in an affair or by becoming partners. By the latest novel, having had only two children feature in the first, there are now half a dozen young children. I can’t say I don’t find it realistic, I can’t say I don’t like it, but it just seems that so many loose people end up tied to someone else, and I’m not sure in real life this does often happen. I’m not making any point by commenting that I feel that the writer, Elly Griffiths, becomes so fond of characters she either can’t let go of them or wants them to have a happy and settled life. To be fair the two main characters don’t have a particularly settled life, and each experiences great unhappiness, but somehow even this is smoothed out. I love these books, the descriptions of north Norfolk are fantastic, the archaeology is fascinating and the stories are compulsive and gripping, and I really don’t mind the cosy endings, it’s just interesting to me as a writer. Elly Griffiths is very successful, I wish I were; maybe i should take a lesson from her? Or maybe just continue to write in my own way, bearing her example in mind!

My featured image is of Somerset, not Norfolk, but it is a similar marshy, salty, wet area of the country, and beautiful too!

In case you haven’t read my Radwinter stories, here is a link:


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