Killing Characters in Novels: Red Shirts or Dead Ponies?

Many years ago, I read a short story in school about a kid and his favorite pony. Bad stuff happens to the pony and the kid goes through herculean efforts trying to save it. In the end, the pony dies and the story was very depressing. I think it may have been a classic written by a famous author, but I’m not sure. After all these years, I don’t really remember much about it, except how much I disliked it.

I disliked it so much, in fact, that some of my friends and I started referring to the unnecessary death of a main character or a sympathetic supporting character in a novel as a “dead pony.” For example, if a fantasy author kills off a main character for no other plot reason than to show that the villain is a bad guy, that’s a dead pony. The author could have chosen other ways to signal to the reader that the villain was bad.

To this day, I still dislike dead ponies in novels. If I am warned that an author tends to kill main or secondary characters, I generally avoid reading that author’s books. (You can probably guess which immensely popular fantasy series of the past few years I did NOT watch on television.) While a character’s demise may occasionally be an integral part of a plot, gratuitous character deaths always annoy me. (One of my friends refers to those as “murder by author.”)

(And, by the way, I am only talking about fantasy novels. Other genres are very different. You can’t write a murder mystery without a murder.)

There is, however, one exception to my opinion about dead characters in fantasy novels. One type of character death does not trouble me – the death of one or more “red shirt” characters.

I assume that most of my audience is familiar with what I mean by that term, but just in case, let me explain. The name comes from the original Star Trek series. When Kirk and Spock beamed down to a dangerous planet, there was often an unnamed security officer or two who went with them. When the monster attacked out of nowhere, it would kill one or more of those security guys, putting the main characters on notice that bad things were afoot on that planet. Star Fleet security personnel always wore red shirts in the original series (hence the name “red shirts”).

When I started preparing for this week’s blog, I thought about red shirts versus dead ponies and the differences between them. What makes some character deaths in a novel more troubling than others? Here are a few of my thoughts:

The primary difference has to do with the level of investment the reader has in the character. Those security officers in Star Trek sometimes were not even given names. They had no backstory, no relationship with the main characters, and nothing to distinguish them from the scenery. While their deaths were troubling (just as any death is troubling), there was nothing to disrupt the narrative or cast a shadow over the rest of the tale.

Dead ponies, on the other hand, have a strong connection with both the other characters in the story and with the reader. In the pony story I mentioned above, you agonize with the kid as he’s trying to save the pony and you feel for both of them – the kid and his pet. When the pony dies, the disappointment hits hard for both the character and the reader.

The line between red shirt and dead pony can be a thin one. In the Lord of the Rings, King Theoden’s door warden Hama starts out as a very minor character, but quickly crosses the line when he supports the heroes at the risk of his own job. I felt bad when he died, far more than I would have for a standard minor character.

Another difference between red shirts and dead ponies may involve reader expectation. When my family used to watch Star Trek back in the 1960’s, my father always called the red shirts “expendables.” As soon as they showed up in the scene, there was an expectation that something terrible would probably happen to them in order to facilitate the story.

Likewise, when a book or movie opens with an old mentor and a young hero, a reader knows not to get too attached to the old mentor. The expectation is that he will die before the story ends, sometimes to start the young hero on his journey and oftentimes while saving the young hero’s life. It happens so often that parodies have made fun of it.

The impact of a character death may also depend on when it happens. Character deaths near the beginning of a novel are often less troubling than those that occur later. At times, a fantasy novel will have a “shake-up” event at the outset of the book that propels the story forward. As a reader, I try not to get too attached to characters until after that time of uncertainty ends and the main characters are established.

Finally, the impact of the death may depend on how the other characters in the story react to it. In the Lord of the Rings, for example, I was less troubled by Theoden’s death than I was by Hama’s, even though Theoden was a far more significant character. Why? Because the other characters told us not to be upset about it — they all talked about how Theoden had done a great thing and kept his oaths, etc.

Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts. I’ve already gone on a little longer than I usually do in a post, so I should probably end here.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 9/10/2021

Writing Productivity vs Burn Out

Being an Indy author is tricky. You must learn to market your own novels. You need to find others to help with proofreading and editing, and you need a circle of friends to encourage you to keep writing when sales are low.

More than anything else, however, you need to write books. Many books.

If you listen to Amazon KDP presentations and classes given by successful Indy authors, you quickly learn that their fiction writing tends to share two characteristics: quantity and rapidity. They usually have multiple books for sale and they are capable of writing a novel or novella fairly quickly, sometimes in only a few months.

During the middle of pandemic last year, I decided to see if John and I could write a novel in six months. In order to do that, I wrote at least 500 words a day…every day…seven days a week. Between the time we started last fall and the time we finished the book this spring, I only missed one day of writing (due to a death in the family). I even wrote on holidays. During that time, John and I discussed the ongoing story constantly, often using the white board in our game room to plot the upcoming chapters.

It worked. We finished the first draft of the novel in six months. We were able to proofread it, revise and edit it, and publish it less than one year after we first started writing.

That all sounds great. (I hope the final product is great as well, but that is up to all you readers to decide.) There was just one downside. The constant writing became very difficult after a while. Writing every single day meant I never got a day off. On days when I had other activities, I sometimes would not finish my 500 words until 9:00 at night.

I did it somehow (because I am stubborn that way), but it was not easy. More importantly, it was not sustainable. Keeping up that pace would burn me out of fiction writing eventually.

Since that time, I’ve been trying to think of a compromise – a way to produce books at a rapid pace, but not suffer burn out.

For the latest novel, I am trying a modified version of the at-least-500-words-a-day plan. First, with John’s help, I outlined the novel beforehand, so we would not have to discuss it constantly. Second, I am limiting my at-least-500-words-a-day to four days of each week (Monday through Thursday). Then I get a three-day weekend off. Obviously, I can also write on those days off, if I feel inspired to do so, but I no longer have the pressure to produce.

So far, the plan has worked well. I am currently on Chapter 3 of our new novel, and I am able to enjoy the writing process with minimal stress. It will take longer to write this book than the previous one, but we still should be able to finish within a year.

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if any of you wonderful readers out there happen to finish either of our current novels, I would love to hear your thoughts. Obviously, Amazon and Goodreads reviews are greatly appreciated, but if you prefer something more informal, my email address is listed on this website.

Talk to you next Friday!

Susan 8/6/2021

p.s. I suppose I should include the link to our latest book. It’s part of that marketing-your-own-books thing I mentioned earlier. You should be able to find it at: Prophecy’s Malignant Son: A high fantasy novel eBook: Ruff, Susan and John: Books

If that link does not work, please leave a comment and let me know. Thank you!

Fighting Writing Procrastination

When I told Danny Atwood, my good friend and fellow Emerald Cove author, that I wanted to brainstorm ideas with him about ways to combat writing procrastination, he said, “We should schedule a time to talk about that later.”

Despite that inauspicious opening, we did eventually discuss the topic. Here are some of my take-aways from our talk:

The methods to combat writing procrastination may differ depending on the cause of the procrastination. Often the tasks we put off are the ones we don’t want to do. For example, I can put off housework for years. While that non-preferred-task explanation could apply to writing projects like a school or work assignment, it should not affect our fiction writing. After all, those of us who want to be novelists must like writing or we would not do it. We’re certainly not doing it to get rich.

So why do so many authors who like to write find it hard to sit down at the keyboard?

Feeling the Muse: We all write our best when we are inspired. That’s wonderful when it happens, but if waiting until you “feel the muse” is preventing you from writing, perhaps it’s time to adopt a new strategy. Writing can be a joy, but it is also a discipline. Don’t wait until you’re “in the mood” to write. Set yourself a writing schedule and stick with it. I’ve heard of people who choose a particular time of day to write or block out a certain amount of time, such as an hour a day. My preferred method is to set a word count, such as writing 100 words a day.

If you are going to try this, I suggest that you start with small amounts. Don’t decide that you will write for six hours every day or require yourself to complete 1,000 words every day. You wouldn’t start a home jogging program by running in a marathon. Try writing 50 or 100 words a day or blocking out a short amount of time to write. The important thing is to develop a writing habit through consistency.

And don’t worry about how good the writing is. You can always rewrite later.

That Busy Schedule: If you’re like me, your daily activities will expand to fill whatever amount of free time you have. If you want to write, then you have to make your fiction writing a priority in your schedule. Of course, there are some activities that must come first, such as children, work, school, and health. I am not talking about neglecting important matters.

But what about the rest of the activities that try to dominate our lives? How often do we endlessly flip through kitten or puppy pictures on social media? Right now, even as I type these words, my phone is buzzing every few seconds with a series of group text messages from friends about an rpg we play once a month. If I keep stopping to read those texts, I will never finish this blog post.

If you are serious about your writing, then prioritize your writing instead of those social distractions. The text messages and social media posts will still be there later for you to review.

The same applies to that “shiny new toy” you just bought. Finish your daily writing first and then play that new video game.

The Overwhelming Task: Over the years, I’ve learned that the projects I postpone the longest are the ones that feel overwhelming. When I don’t even know where to begin a huge task, I keep putting it off until I am absolutely forced to confront it.

My personal strategy to combat this type of procrastination is to break the task into smaller, manageable pieces. I might even list those sub-tasks on a piece of paper, so I can check off each one as I complete it. An entire novel can seem like a mountain of work, so I tend to set my writing goals on a much smaller level. My goal will be to finish a single chapter or even an individual scene. Once that is complete, I work on the next goal.

One Additional Strategy: One method Danny uses to fight procrastination involves setting a deadline to exchange writing with another author or group of authors. Our Emerald Cove writer’s critique group meets once a month, and Danny found that he was the most productive on the days just before the meeting. At his suggestion, he and I started additional weekly meetings (via Zoom) to discuss our writing. This weekly writing “deadline” has helped his productivity.

Talk to you next Friday!

-Susan 6/4/2021

Second Draft Anyone?

There comes a point in an author’s career when one must face the prospect of…shudder…rewriting.

I tend to approach writing the second draft of a novel with all the enthusiasm of eating leftovers. It’s a lot easier to make dinner by throwing leftovers in the microwave than it is to cook a meal from scratch, but leftovers are seldom as tasty or fun to eat. In the same way, writing the second draft of a novel is easier than the first, because I already know the story, but it seems a lot more like drudgery than writing the initial draft.

For an author like me, who tends to start with a story premise instead of a complete outline, rewriting is critical. The second draft is where the book really comes together. In the first draft, it’s easy to think the problems will “all come out in the wash.” In the second draft, it’s laundry time.

With my current manuscript, I have started the rewriting process by going chapter by chapter and reviewing all the critiques I’ve received from my fellow Emerald Cove authors. If the suggested changes are simple grammatical issues or spelling corrections, I make them as I go. For the more detailed plot or scene suggestions, the rewrite can take more time and might require me to kick around ideas with John before I change anything.

At times, it can be tempting to ignore the critiques, particularly when they involve major changes to a scene or chapter. However, in my experience, the final product becomes much stronger when I make revisions in response to those criticisms, even if it means rewriting a chapter multiple times.

Once I finish with the chapter-by-chapter rewrite, I plan to reread the entire story from start to finish and see how it all fits together. If it needs further revisions, I’ll start work on the third draft. When the entire story is satisfactory, it will be ready for the final editing for grammar, spelling, and formatting issues.

I’m hoping to finish the second draft of the current manuscript in the next two weeks. If all goes well, the release date should be some time in June.

Talk to you next Friday.

-Susan 5/6/2021

When You’re Bored…Write!

Are you looking for more time to write your novel during your crazy, hectic schedule? Here’s a suggestion: Use those times when you are forced to sit and wait for an appointment. Even during the pandemic, we still occasionally find ourselves in a waiting room (or waiting in the car in a parking lot) for a doctor or dentist appointment. Don’t spend that “downtime” flipping endlessly through email or social media. Start writing fiction instead.

How does that work, you might ask? Obviously, if you have a laptop with you, writing is very easy. Suppose, however, that you typically do your fiction writing on your desktop computer at home? How can you write in a doctor’s office when your computer is miles away?

The answer is easy — make use of the technology you have with you. Most of our electronic communication devices provide some method to type memos. My phone has a free app called “notes” that allows me to use my phone keyboard to type reminders to myself. Yes, the screen is small and the virtual keyboard is awkward to use, but it is possible to compose fiction using it. Once you get home, you can email the note to yourself and cut-and-paste the text of what you’ve written into your existing manuscript. (There may be other phone apps specifically designed for writing, but I have not researched them. I’m just talking about the free apps that come with your phone.)

If you prefer “old school” methods, you can bring a pen and paper with you to write (or use a spiral notepad). This method is slow and also requires you to type what you’ve written into your manuscript when you get home, but it is possible to write that way. I did it for years before we had modern communication technology. Even now, I tend to keep a paper copy of my latest chapter in my purse for proofreading and revision. I pull it out and work on it whenever I am sitting in the car in a parking lot waiting for John to return.

Another great time to write is while riding in commuter mass transit. Planes, trains, and busses all require you to sit for an extended length of time doing nothing. That’s a great opportunity to write. Some mass transit systems will even provide electrical outlets for your laptop. When you’re waiting in an airport lobby (and we all hope to be back there some day after the pandemic), don’t spend your time staring at the video screens above you. Work on your novel instead.

By the way, I am NOT suggesting that you write while you are driving, even if you are sitting in stopped traffic during rush hour. Don’t try it! Even texting while driving is dangerous (and illegal where I come from).

Maybe that’s another good reason (in addition to helping the environment and relieving personal stress) to commute by mass transit when you can. Think of all the writing you can accomplish!

Susan 4/16/2021

Back to the Drawing Board

In a recent blog post, I discussed the brainstorming process that John and I use to develop plot ideas for novels. Last night, John pointed out to me that I forgot to mention my favorite tool to assist in that process. No, it’s not a fancy software program designed to help authors organize their thoughts. I’ve heard good things about such programs, and I know that one of our Emerald Cove writers finds them helpful.

The method that John and I use is far more basic:

We have a white board on the wall (four feet by six feet in size) and a bunch of dry-erase markers in different colors. As we’re brainstorming, I jot down story ideas on the board. The words usually remain on the board for several days, while we add new things (often in a different color) or tweak the words that are already written. Before we erase the board, I take a picture of it (or several pictures, depending on the size and amount of the writing) to preserve the ideas for later.

How did we happen to have a 4 x 6 white board on the wall of our game room? I’m glad you asked.

Several years ago, one of our friends ran a table-top rpg (role-playing game) where we all played police detectives with minor superpowers. In each game episode, we used investigation and deductive reasoning to figure out the identity of the criminal. Then we would apprehend the criminal, usually relying on our superpowers (and lucky dice rolls).

Since everyone knows that all good police detectives (at least, the ones in television shows) use a “murder board” to help catch the criminals, John decided that we needed one too. He found a warehouse that sold second-hand office equipment, and suddenly we were the proud owners of a monstrous wall-hanging.

We eventually finished the detective campaign, so we no longer needed our murder board, but I found the white board was useful for other things, particularly writing. For some reason, words written in large letters on the board are more effective for my thought processes than tiny, typed words on a computer screen. In addition to brainstorming plotlines, I also use the board to outline upcoming chapters for a work-in-progress or to record clever snatches of dialogue for future scenes of the book. The board provides a great place for me to jot down all those fleeting story ideas before they fade away.

The moral of this story is NOT that every writer needs a huge board on the wall. Instead, you need to find a comfortable way to note story ideas as they come to you. Of course, your method must enable you to find those ideas later when you need them. I can’t think of the number of times (before we owned the white board) that I jotted down an idea on a scrap of paper, only to lose it and discover it again years later as I was cleaning out a box in the closet.

Susan 4/9/2021

A Few Points About Multiple Viewpoints

So whose novel is it anyway? Well, yes, of course, it’s the author’s book. But which character or characters are the focus of the story? Whose thoughts and observations drive the narrative? From which character’s point of view is the story told?

When I first started writing, I did not understand the concept of character point of view. I’m certainly no expert on the subject today, but I have done enough story critiquing (and had my own writing critiqued enough) to recognize a point of view shift in a story when I see it. No doubt there are treatises and “how-to” books out there to describe and define what constitutes character point of view. I don’t feel qualified to do that.

What I can do is give you my favorite example of viewpoint shift within a story. In Chapter Three of the Fellowship of the Ring (“Three is Company”), the story is mostly being told from Frodo’s point of view (though not completely). At one point, as the Hobbits are traveling through the Shire, the viewpoint abruptly shifts for about a paragraph to a “fox passing through the wood on business of his own….” We read the fox’s thoughts and are told “but he never found out any more about it.” The next paragraph then shifts back to Frodo’s point of view as he wakes up the next morning. I always felt sorry for that fox because he never learned the full story!

Many years ago, a person critiquing one of my manuscripts told me that a book should be written from a single character’s point of view. I respectfully disagree. That is certainly the most commonly used method of storytelling in modern novels, but I have also read excellent novels told in multiple viewpoints. On the whole, however, if there are going to be multiple point of view characters, I prefer a clear demarcation between viewpoint shifts, such as separate chapters for different viewpoints or, at least, section breaks between them.

As a writer, my “default setting” tends toward ensemble casts, in which the book is told from more than one character’s point of view. There were five point of view characters in 60th Hour and there are three in the current draft of Prophecy’s Malignant Son.

I suspect my preference comes from my fondness for table-top role playing games. In a really good, story-driven rpg, the game master makes sure that each player-character at the table gets his or her moment in the spotlight. If one character is the real protagonist and the others are just there to bolster that character’s plotline, it will rapidly become a boring game for anyone except the person playing the main character.

There are both advantages and challenges to writing a novel with multiple point of view characters. Multiple viewpoints allow the action of the story to occur in two different places at the same time. The author can create mini-cliffhangers as the story abruptly shifts from the events involving one character to a different character. In addition, the writer can have fun describing a character in different ways depending on whose viewpoint is currently being portrayed.

One of the challenges with writing multiple viewpoint novels involves making sure that each viewpoint character is different from the others. Each character in a novel should be unique, of course, with a separate personality, but that is particularly true with point of view characters. Their thoughts, experiences, and outlook on the world should differ from the others.

Timing can also be tricky with multiple viewpoints. With a single viewpoint character, the story tends to be linear. With multiple viewpoint characters in different scenes, it may get confusing for the reader as to what events are occurring at what point. You may need to draft a timeline as an author to keep track of concurrent events.

The recent movie Dunkirk had a fascinating twist on the concept of multiple viewpoints and timing, with three stories set in different timetables being told at the same time. Even though the movie announced that would happen right from the beginning, it still took me a large part of the movie to actually appreciate what was going on.

The idea of timing recently hit home for me, when I was drafting Prophecy’s Malignant Son. I changed the length of time that passed in one chapter from a week to a month. That meant I had to revise the timeline for the concurrent chapters involving the other point of view characters to make the story consistent. Despite the extra work, I still think the story will be better for the change.

There is another question I cannot answer. When, if ever, do you hyphenate the words “point of view” when used in a sentence? For purposes of this blog post, I decided to forego hyphens between those three words, but if I have done so in error, you can all laugh at me behind my back!

-Susan 1/22/2021

Do You Outline Your Novels Before You Write?

Notice that the title of today’s blog post does not say: “Should you outline your novels before you write?” I don’t think there is a correct answer to the “should you outline” question. From what I have heard and read, it seems to be a matter of author preference. There are successful authors on both sides of the outlining issue.

Making an outline of the plot before you write a novel has advantages. You know exactly where the story is headed and how to get there. Although I cannot speak for everyone, I suspect an outline helps to prevent writer’s block — you know what you need to write and the only problem is how to write it.

Writing a novel without a detailed outline can also be fun. You can let the tale change as you go and see where the characters and situations lead you. Of course, at the end, you will probably need a significant rewrite to change the meandering manuscript into a cohesive story, but every book needs revision before it is publishable.

I have tried writing novels both ways. For the book John and I wrote just before 60th Hour, I started with a detailed outline, with headings, subheadings, etc. I began the outline by using each of the four main sections of the story as the headings, and the individual chapters within each section became the subheadings. Many of those chapter subheadings also contained sub-subheadings detailing events within that chapter. I knew precisely where the novel was going and how to get there. The book ended up very long and, based on comments I received from reviewers, was rather slow moving. I don’t know if the outline was partially responsible for that or if it was simply due to my own inexperience with writing at the time. I suspect the latter.

The one lesson I learned from that experience with outlining was to go “off script” from the outline if it helps the story. When I reached the third part of that novel, John suggested adding a set of characters and subplot that were not in the original outline. At first I resisted, partly because his suggestion deviated from the outline. Eventually, I revised the book in accordance with John’s suggestion. To this day, I think the book became far more interesting once those characters were added. (Obviously a story that really starts to move in Part 3 is not ready for publication! Maybe someday there will be a revised version, but right now John and I are having too much fun with the new story.)

For 60th Hour, I did not prepare an outline, although I knew pretty well where the story was headed before I started writing. Because John and I were not working from an outline, we had a lot of flexibility to add characters and subplots as I was crafting the story. On the other hand, it meant that the second draft required extensive rewriting to make everything work well together. (As I recall, I ended up with at least four major rewrites of the manuscript before it became the novel you can buy on Amazon.) While Chapter 1 (originally the prologue) pretty much stayed the same throughout the writing process, the other early chapters of the book changed extensively in later drafts of the novel. For example, the chapter that introduces Aubrey in the current novel did not even exist until a later draft. Originally, she first entered the story when she showed up in Demesio’s office, already furious at him.

For the current novel (Prophecy’s Malignant Son), I am using a hybrid outline system. I know generally where the novel is headed, but I have not outlined every chapter in detail. Instead, I am outlining one or two chapters ahead of where I am writing. Because this is a new universe, John and I are also engaging in fantasy worldbuilding as we go. Undoubtedly, the manuscript will require a major overhaul during the second draft to bring everything together, but so far I am keeping up with my 500+ words per day, so the system seems to be working.

Of course, the comments in today’s post are meant to apply to novels and fiction writing. Non-fiction is a whole different world. (And it is a world I am definitely not qualified to speak about.) The one time I wrote a non-fiction book, not only was the outline essential, it was mandated by the publisher before I even started typing a single word.

Anyway, the key point of today’s blog post is: keep writing! If an outline helps you write fiction, then use an outline. If preparing the outline becomes such a hindrance that you don’t actually start the novel, then don’t bother with one, just write and have fun.

-Susan 12/11/2020

To Sequel or Not: One Writer’s Dilemma

If you want your characters to live happily ever after, you’d better be cautious about writing a sequel.

Case in point. The Star Wars movies. The end of the Star Wars trilogy back in the early 1980’s was a joyous moment for the heroes of the story and their fans (Ewoks notwithstanding). The good guys won. The bad guys lost. Han and Leia fell in love. The Empire fell and Luke even redeemed his father. They all lived happily ever after, right?

Wrong! In the recent sequel movies, we learn that Han and Leia split up, their son turned evil, and Luke went off to live in isolation, mired in guilt and remorse. All the hard won battles of the first trilogy were for naught. The gains made by the Rebel Alliance fell apart, and war and oppression once again filled the galaxy far, far away.

I’ll let others debate about which Star Wars movies were better or happier. That’s not my point here. Nor am I here to talk about what is or should be “canon” for the Star Wars universe. There were dozens of novels published after the original Star Wars movies aired, some of which may or may not have been “sequels” in a classic sense.

Instead, I want to talk about sequels, particularly to fantasy novels (because that is what I write). One of the marketing strategies suggested for Indy authors involves writing sequels. Essentially you use your second book to sell your first book.

But what if your first book doesn’t lend itself to sequels? Are there stories that shouldn’t have a sequel? When is “happily ever after” good enough?

Obviously, some stories are intended to be a series right from the start. Detective novels, for example, can have a happy ending for each book and the hero can go on to the next story with no problem. There are many fantasy series that do just fine with multiple “sequels.”

At times, a fantasy series will involve subsequent books that are a continuation of the main story in the first book, but are those really sequels? Was the second Harry Potter book a sequel to the first? Was there ever an expectation that Harry lived happily ever after the events of the first book?

Some authors have maintained the happy ending for their main characters by focusing on other people in the next book. Bilbo Baggins keeps his “happily ever after” in the Lord of the Rings because he gets to write poetry in Rivendell while his fellow Hobbits go through the misery of the War of the Ring. Even in LOTR, however, we learn that poor Balin, one of the Dwarves from the Hobbit, did not get a happy ending in Moria.

Which brings me to my personal dilemma. Should there be a sequel to 60th Hour? Can there be? When John and I wrote it, we intended it to be a standalone novel, with no cliff-hanger endings and no set up for the next book. It is a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and (I hope) a satisfying ending. Ever since we published it in March, I have been trying to think of a way to write a sequel.

I don’t want to give any spoilers for those who haven’t read 60th Hour, so I won’t go into specifics. However, those who have read the story will probably understand. What do you write after the characters solve the problem that threatens the world? Any future threat to the world will unravel the happy ending. Anything less would seem trivial in comparison to the first novel. Do John and I really want to write a series of detective stories set in the Kingdom of Kenarin? It might be amusing at first, but hardly satisfying to readers who want another story with the broad scope of 60th Hour.

Writing the prequel to 60th Hour (presumably set 3600 years earlier) is also problematic. I personally dislike “train wreck” stories in which events move invariably toward the sorrowful ending that forms the background for the original book.

When John and I write our future books, we will keep possible sequels in mind. For 60th Hour, however, you can enjoy the novel without the worry that the universe will unravel. It contains no cliffhangers or partial endings that set things up for the next book. There’s not going to be a sequel to spoil the happily ever after.

Susan – 7/24/20