My dashing duo Charles and Carrie are back in the third book in the Faraday Murder Series ─Take a Byte Out of Murder.
The couple has decided they need a vacation after solving their second murder. Off they go to the beach community of Pear Cove to celebrate the New Year with Carrie’s parents. After all, what could happen while celebrating with her parents?
Well, the New Year bells have barely finished tolling before murder strikes in this quiet resort. Charles and Carrie Faraday discover the body of Ginny Ellwood, only yards from their home in Pear Cove. Ginny is the fiancée of Carrie’s brother, Norton and it isn’t long before police have him targeted as their prime suspect.
Ginny was a popular girl and liked by everyone young and old. She didn’t have an enemy in world except ─she must have had one.
Murders, blackmail, computer espionage─ there are lots of clues to challenge the Faraday’s detecting skills. Can they put all the puzzle pieces together and find Ginny’s killer before Carrie’s brother is charged with murder?
Writing and Maintaining a Mystery Series
Having completed this third, book I feel I have fully established my series. I once read that readers don’t really consider it a series until the third book. Many readers don’t want to commit to a series until they are sure there are more books to follow. And once a series is established readers expect certain elements to be maintained. Let’s take a look at some of those elements you’ll find in my Faraday Murder Series and other series.
Location in a Series
Readers want a place for the characters to call ‘home’ in a series. For Carrie and Charles, I’ve developed the fictional town of Tri-City. I was born in Philadelphia, worked in Washington, DC for many years and currently live near Baltimore. My fictional town has streets, and sites that you may recognize from anyone of these three cities. Not all the stories take place in Tri-City, but this location remains the home base for my two characters. Speaking of characters, my series features two amateur detectives.
The Main Characters in a Series
Although my characters knew each other many years ago they have renewed their acquaintance late in life. Charles is in his fifties and Carrie is in her late forties. When they meet Charles is managing the family printing business and Carrie is a well-known magazine photographer.
Both are tall. Charles is six foot two and Carrie is five foot eight. Carrie has curly brown hair and Charles is distinguished by his silver hair. Charles has blue-gray eyes while Carrie’s are green. The reason I mention some of these physical details is because these characteristics must remain consistent throughout the series. Readers are the first to notice if a character changes. If there is a change, it needs to be explained to the reader.
Maintaining the Minor Characters in a Series
Each book in the series revolves around my two main characters and at least one murder victim and villain. However, there is also a vast supporting cast of minor characters who help to develop and enhance the plots in the books.
One difference with minor characters in a series versus a single novel is the characters might appear in one book, disappear for a period of time and then reappear in a later book. For instance, Charles’s nephew, Christopher plays a large part in the first book— Take a Dive for Murder and has minor mentions in the second and third book. But for all you fans of Christopher he will be back in the fourth book to help solve the crime. Also in the fourth book Madge Luther and Marge Millford from the Tri-County Bookstore are back and play a major role in setting up the plot.
The Lives of Series Characters
In addition to the mega task of solving the murder, the lives of the characters also need to develop. In the first book we learn about Charles’s family and business associates. Also while solving this first murder Carrie and Charles have developed feelings for each other.
By the second book they have married. They have bought and renovated a home and settled in with a new family member. They have adopted a cat named Baxter who continues to join them in future books.
In the latest book we meet Carrie’s parents and brother and learn about her father’s business. We get a glimpse at their lives and the people of Pear Cove.
The couple also enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles and eating out at various restaurants. In addition to her photography, Carrie is working on a mystery book. Who knows, maybe finishing her mystery book will be the plot of a future book. This is just a little bit about Carrie and Charles, but you get the point. Their lives are about more than just solving the murder.
Time Line for a Series
A series needs to move forward. It may move slowly with only a few months passing between adventures or perhaps longer. But as with our own lives time doesn’t stand still. As previously mentioned, in the latest book we know our couple is taking a vacation after solving the murder of Todd Barrington in Take Stock in Murder. The reader knows the series has advanced from solving that crime.
Plots in a Series
Because I write mysteries I always feel the murder is the most important element. I start with the murder and build the plot from this dastardly deed. I also believe the murder must have relevance for out two amateur sleuths. Whether it’s a family member or a friend who asks for help, it has to make sense for Carrie and Charles to get involved.
While maintaining the location and the characters from the series, the reader is provided with a new story line in each book. For readers of a mystery this means a new and challenging murder. And the principles of a good mystery still need to be followed—a murder, lots of suspects, a few red herrings and enough clues that the reader has a fair and equal opportunity to solve the crime along with the detectives.
Maintaining a Series Reference Book
Yes, I keep a reference book for the Faraday series. It’s really designed to help my brain remember what I’ve written. It helps me maintain the integrity of all my characters, along with the locations and all the other repetitive elements from the series.
Plan Ahead with the Series
While working on the current book I always have an idea for the plot of the next book. I may not know all the details of what will happen, but I have the murder concept. I know enough so I can introduce characters that will reappear and drop little hints about the future adventure.
These are typical elements in a series and ones I maintain for the Faraday Murder Series. Hopefully as readers you’ll come back again and again to the series and help Carrie and Charles solve their latest murder.