The past leaves fingerprints

There's a problem inherent with writing a series of books with the same central character - what happens to the past? Does it get forgotten about as soon as the books over, and we start again with a clean slate for the next book? Or do the things that happen leave their grubby fingerprints all over our characters?

"But, Stuart," I here you groan, in that bored way you do, "why would we care? Can't you just post another picture of a dead mouse and make a couple of knob jokes, instead of writing about ... well, writing?"

Yes, I could, but Judith's comment on the last post strikes me as a good excuse to be boring for a bit and put on my serious hat. The one without the comedy breasts and amusing farty noises...

At 4:24 PM, Judith said...

Just finished reading Blind Eye. Loved it. But please donn't send our favourite Scottish DS down that PTSD, alcoholic, could have something to do with an overbearing mother road to misery and ruin.After all some cops are normal and sane.

Now I have to confess that I really don't like chocolate cake. And that I'm not a big fan of the whole 'and the next day he forgot all about the horrific events of the last month and went about life as normal' thing. That big red button that resets everything back to the way it was. I know a lot of writers do it, but it makes my nipples itch with rage. Well, 'rage' is probably putting it a bit strong, it's more of a vague disquiet, but you know what I mean. For me, if a character's had a really shitty time of it in book 3 then I expect to see echoes of that in book 4.

Ray Banks does an excellent job of this with his Callum Innes books. Innes gets more and more fucked up with every book. He's like a real person! Shock, and indeed, horror. It's a brave thing to do, because it does give a series character a finite shelf life. If you're going to be writing a series character who spends each successive book being more and more traumatised by horrible things happening to him (or her) then sooner or later, they're going to be so screwed up there's no return.

Which makes that big red reset button seem all the more attractive. Press it and you can keep on writing the same characters over and over and over.

But I have to admit that I don't want to press it. I think Logan's getting more interesting as he goes. Certainly to write about. He's not the same person at the end of Blind Eye as he was at the start of Cold Granite. Or at least I hope he isn't.

Here's the thing though - I don't really want him to end up as a bitter lump of alcohol-soaked gristle. At least, not in the long term. OK, so he's never going to be the same naïve, bushy-tailed wee scamp he was to start with, but I don't see him turning into the classic police procedural cliché. If he does, then it'll definitely be time to kill him off.

And now, to lighten the mood, here's a picture of a dead mouse:

poor Mr Mouse has had his front legs and his ears eaten

You'll have to wait for the knob joke.

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