Reactionary Tales

Keeping up with the Characters

Recently I examined my reading habits as of late. I realized that I gravitate towards series and not only just series, but series with recurring characters. Normally, you find this trait in a lot of fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction and paranormal books. Then you have mystery, thriller and contemporary genres that have characters in the same world but not necessarily recurring. My current read is actually a crime, romantic suspense drama that features recurring characters for a whopping 11 books so far and it got me thinking. I had to do a lot of research to find this series and a couple of others that made the list but why is it that I feel I need recurring characters in order to hold my interest in a series?

First things first, when creating a fictional world, many players are to be expected. You have your main two which are usually a male and a female, two of each, or some other variation and they are surrounded by sub characters who you slightly connect with, maybe grow to love, but the focus isn’t really on them. After the first book however, things are subject to change. One such series that I’ve read (Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh) features the main characters Raphael and Elena in the first and second book and then the next couple books are focused on members of Raphael’s team but then the book after that circles back to Raphael and Elena, and so forth. I quite enjoy this series but I wonder if I keep reading it because it circles back to R&E even though I’m not necessarily invested in the side characters?

But then you take a world where the same two characters are in every book and you are watching them learn and grow more and more about themselves. For example, the series I’m reading now that I mentioned above, the Fatal Series by Marie Force, the time span between the first book and the second book is a week. Last week was focused on the murder case of a United States Senator and this week its a US Supreme Court Justice with the personal everyday dramas of the main characters involved. The main woman is a cop who struggles with dyslexia and is obsessed with solving the case that left her dad a quadriplegic and you have the man who’s in love with her but is struggling to try and make a life with her while dealing with his own career as well as the loss of some people closest to him.

This attachment I form to people that don’t even exist is pretty intense. I find that it’s becoming harder and harder for me to read a standalone because I end up wanting more even if it means reading about different characters in the same world, with loose connections to the mains, in the hopes of getting a glimpse of life after book one for those mains I connected with. Then I think about my Netflix watching habits and it’s like watching a TV series versus a movie but not at the same time. I can watch a movie and be content with it ending but when it comes to books, I just have a really hard time.

Anyway, the main reason for this post was to get an idea of what you, my fellow readers, think of series with recurring characters versus series with different characters each book. Do you find yourself becoming attached from the first two characters at the start? I realize that a lot of books do end well or have a subsequent spin off series to completely tie up loose ends with all characters involved but do you ever find yourself wanting more with certain books or book genres versus others? Let me know in the comments below!

Nel

Happily married, bookaholic, Netflix-a-holic sharing random experiences and interpretations of my world which is brutally honest most of the time.

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32 thoughts on “Keeping up with the Characters

  1. James J. Cudney IV

    What a fantastic post! I totally appreciate where you are coming from. We’re alike in that we have strong connections with people whether it’s on a TV show or in a book – all those not real ones. Not sure what it means….

    But I prefer series to single books. I like watching the entire life of someone, knowing all that goes on and seeing their growth.

    1. Nel Post author

      Thanks James. I’ve been thinking of writing this post for about 2 weeks. We are definitely alike in the connection category but also in books as well since you also prefer series over standalones :D.

  2. Love it Now

    “This attachment I form to people that donโ€™t even exist is pretty intense” – isn’t it amazing in a way? because you can say the same about people we never get to know in real, just people met through the internet.
    We can even fall in love just through the way somebody expresses something without even seeing the face!
    I was thinking recently a lot about it – I grew up in times when internet didn’t exist yet and all friendships/loves were pure physical and now I can have different feelings for people I don’t even know personally, just by feeling them through words.
    How strange is it?
    What is then real?
    Are we really living in a world outside our heads?

    1. Nel Post author

      Monika, I love the way your mind works! That is definitely true. I’ve made quite a few long distance connections with people I’ve never met but literally look forward to chatting with them every single day; almost live for it. It’s a great kind of strange in my opinion but I see what you mean about what is real and what isn’t real and technically I guess it is a world outside of our basic minds because we are imagining all these scenarios in our head. There’s a possibility they could become real but we are definitely content with what we have for the time being. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for commenting! It’s so thought provoking! <3

      1. Love it Now

        you never know what would happen if you met them in real, on the other hand I think that getting know someone this way is the most profound way of meeting the essence of this person. – There’s no need to play, no time for trivial things, we are less scared to expose ourselves and we hit directly in the core of each other (unless someone wants to play). But not everybody can do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Nel Post author

      Oooh! Sounds very interesting! Thank you for the link. I’ll have to check it out. I love those mysteries that I can’t guess and they end up surprising me at the end.

  3. LizScanlon

    great post! I always admire when people write these interesting pieces…mainly because I never even think to think about these things? ๐Ÿ˜€ well, you made me think now and what a hard question you ask!
    I think I’m one of those in it for the long run readers, i do like series and I do prefer when the MCs stay the same… the only exception to that would be when I happened to like the side characters more than MCs and the SCs then got their own sequel… but defo, when liking the characters, I do want to know more about their life and growth and development..
    another thing that comes to mind: it happened where I connected with the character so well that I didn’t even care what they got up to… so essentially, in any other book the plot would have been a downfall, but with a character you love, you could watch paint dry… because their personality would make it interesting!

    1. Nel Post author

      Thank you for such an awesome comment! I agree with the side characters bit. I do get attached to some of them and pray they get a sequel. It’s rare but it does happen. And then yes, I definitely feel that way with some characters. I can read them read the phone book and there could be no action at all and I’d still get immense joy reading about them, haha.

  4. mainepaperpusher

    Series are always fun. I’ve read a bunch of mystery series and it’s great to see the character fleshed out a bit more in each book. One other thing I’ve noticed in a couple of series is the repetition of the same quotes or phrases the character uses. Like many British comedies, this repetition makes it funnier and funnier the more you read it. It’s a weird psychological trick, at least for me.

    1. Nel Post author

      Hope your day is going well Linda and YES! When the same quotes are used that just makes it even better for sure. I never thought of it as a psychological trick though just one of those sayings that come naturally to some that the use it regularly but I can see what you mean as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. BrizzleLass

    Love this post so much! I become incredibly attached to characters, even the side ones who I often end up liking more! In Fantasy world’s I really like the evil characters it’s a real thing with me so when they are recurring I get so excited! I definitely prefer series where the characters recur to those where they don’t though and I’m completely obsessed with having to start a series at the beginning I absolutely cannot dip in halfway through.

    1. Nel Post author

      Ooooh! That’s a great point! I always read descriptions where people say one can read the books in a series out of order and I’m like no way! Even if there’s a loose connection, I have to read them in order. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. carhicks

    I tend to give lower ratings to books that I do not connect with at all. I do not have to like them to connect, but there has to be something that makes me feel something towards a character. I like series books and will go back and read ones that I have missed if I start one partway through if I really like the characters and want to find out more about them.I do not read a lot of fantasy, but there are a lot of series (crime, thriller, mysteries, romance) that have repeated characters.

    1. Nel Post author

      I can understand where you’re coming from. There is definitely a range of connection levels and it’s not automatically like of the mains all the time. We’ll have to compare notes on some of the series you’ve read and loved with recurring characters. I’d love to add more to my TBR ๐Ÿ˜.

  7. Mischenko

    Great post, Nel! You got me thinking again today. I most definitely get attached to characters. I was very attached to certain characters in A Little Life, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and many others. I look forward to reading series when there are memorable characters, same with Netflix shows and movies. With TV it’s pretty insane and I can cry, cry, cry, and cry again even though I already know what’s going to happen and have been through it before. It’s weird. Authors that write great characters can make me crave it. I love it! <3

    I’m shipping your package right now! Please let me know when you get it if you can. I’ll be sending a second one soon too… Have a great night!

    1. Nel Post author

      Oh I am right there with you 100%! Don’t even get me started on TV shows. You are definitely right. The cravings are so real! I could borderline get addicted.

      Okay awesome! My husband told me to wait and see how you mail the tea before I send you some of ours cause he’s worried about moisture haha. I will let you know as soon as I get it! I feel like this is Christmas early and I’m getting excited!! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’œ

      1. Mischenko

        Oh gosh, I’m stuck on Ozarks now. It’s messed up…

        No problem. I’m sending just bags now, and loose later. I’m in the process of drying the lemon balm and mints and don’t want to send until I know they’re nice and crispy dry. I’ll send the second out very soon! ๐Ÿ’œ

  8. Keira

    I definitely enjoy series more than standalones when I love a book because it means I get to stay in the world and characters for longer and I don’t have to go and find something else to read… especially when it comes to fantasy. I actually just started Angels’ Blood last night so that’s a massive coincidence!

    1. Nel Post author

      Haha! Wow! I hope you like it! I’ve probably read it about 3 times or so and yes to wanting to stay in the worlds! I definitely am very familiar with that feeling as well.

  9. everydaystrangeblog

    I like a series if it feels necessary to the story, but I hate when I keep reading and sense that a continuation is more self indulgent for the author vs adding to the story. And I don’t like books that retell the same story from another view point. It almost never adds anything to the story for me, and sometimes ruins it entirely.

    1. Nel Post author

      I agree with your first point. As for retelling from a different POV, it definitely depends on the characters because sometimes I have moments where I wonder what the other one was thinking in that exact same moment and the author will randomly deliver in a short story, haha. But I can see it ruining a story too.

    2. Sherron0

      What I really hate is when a book won’t stand on its own. I’ve read too many series where it feels like the author just decided that was enough words and we could find out the rest in the next book.

  10. theorangutanlibrarian

    I totally totally get what you mean!! I personally love recurring characters! Speaking of TV, I actually think it’s also the reason I feel like I get more out of series a lot of the time than movies (and possibly why some of my favourite films aren’t standalones- godfather and LOTR) I do get super attached to characters and that makes me want to read more about them (and I get really sad when something’s a standalone and I can’t read more about the characters I love (probably why I felt like I had to read Fangirl even though I wasn’t as interested in the subject matter, cos I needed more Simon and Baz from Carry On- if only that would be a series!) Most of the long series I read are fantasy, so the characters usually stay the same (although some side characters might get more fleshed out and given more time, which I can appreciate) I usually find a lot of contemporary series can change the focus from main characters to side characters- this can work, cos sometimes I end up loving the side characters more (usually if I wasn’t so invested in the mcs) but most of the time I just find that I miss the main characters and find the author’s basically rehashing the same thing with “different” characters. Anyway I’m rambling away on here cos this is such an awesome topic! Love this post!!

  11. Holly B / Dressedtoread

    Loved this postโ€ฆinteresting points! I am not currently reading any series Iโ€™m attached to but I think that if I fine the right mix is characters I could be hooked!

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