You know what I love? I love a great series with characters I want more of.

You know what I hate? Series that flog me to death with characters that never develop, even if they were great in the first three, four, five, or six books. Not all long series are like this. I just binged on CJ Box’s Joe Pickett series and can’t wait for #17 to come out next year. But, to me, this is an exception rather than a rule, and has more to do with the protagonist taking a fairly minor role in the alternating points of view. It’s like the 3rd Joe Pickett book instead of the 17th, if you know what I mean. (If you want to check them out, I highly recommend it. Start with Open Season.)

So when it came time to write my own series, I wanted to leave my readers wanting more of each protagonist when I finished with her. I wanted to take a character and develop her over a three-book story arc. Each of her books would be a standalone mystery novel, but when combined with the other two books about that protagonist, they would tell a story about her with significant, interesting personal growth occurring from book-to-book, and a satisfying romantic storyline as well.

With Katie, that means we have Saving Grace where she’s trying to belatedly grow up, Leaving Annalise where she’s becoming less self-focused, and Finding Harmony where she learns she can’t expect perfection out of others any more than she can expect it from herself. When I wrote the ending of Finding Harmony, I liked where Katie was. Honestly, I didn’t want to mess up her world, and if I’d continued with her I’d have had to. The way I write, the protagonist must have skin in the game. She has to have all she cares about at stake in each mystery in order for her to care enough to put herself at risk by taking ownership of solving it. My gift to Katie is a long and happy life with her husband and kids 😉 My gift to you guys is that I don’t dilute her impact on you by going on and on and on. (You’re welcome!)

Yet I don’t want to start over with a new world after I finish three novels for a protagonist. So I chose to do a series, What Doesn’t Kill You, where I can stay within the same community of characters and spin off protagonists who we already know. Enter Michele (Going for Kona and the upcoming Fighting for Anna), Katie’s law school roommate, and Emily (Heaven to Betsy, Earth to Emilyand Hell to Pay), Katie’s former paralegal.


Then I did the same three-book character arc thing with them. For example—Heaven to Betsy: Emily discovers she wants a child, Betsy. Earth to Emily: Emily learns that she has a heart for the plight of endangered children. Hell to Pay: Emily realizes there’s nothing she won’t risk to help kids. We leave her in a happy place, and I think the mystery plots and romance turned out complex and satisfying as well. At least I hope they did. Readers are better judges of that.

I’m working on Michele’s three novels now. Going for KonaMichele overcomes her own grief for the sake of her son and stepdaughter. Fighting for Anna, my Silver Falchion-winner: I’m not going to tell you yet! Book Three: I honestly have no idea, LOL. Ask me in a year.Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 9.12.29 AMI let my protagonists make guest appearances in each other’s novels. Katie shows up in all the books so far. Emily in six of seven. Michele guested in Hell to Pay and Ava in Earth to EmilyAnd many others cross over as well (Collin isn’t a protagonist but appears in six novels so far; Rashidi is about to appear in his fourth; Nick shows up in four).

I have three more protagonists in development for their starring roles.: Ava, Maggie (who you meet in Fighting for Anna), and Laura from the Emily novels. My Act One exclusive-to-subscribers novella stars all six protagonists (Katie, Emily, Michele, Ava, Maggie, and Laura), and I envision future ensemble novellas and short stories.

What I don’t plan to write is more novels starring protagonists who have already completed their three-novel runs. For better or worse, that’s my strategy, and it’s working for me. I’m sorry, though, because I know how hard it is to walk away from a character you love and not continue in-depth in his or her world. Bring on more Joe Pickett, haha. Thanks for sticking with me anyway!

{Get all the Katie & Emily novels in one download in their box set, HERE.}

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p.s. Meanwhile, the Katie & Emily character arcs had a dang good week. Bestsellers, top-rated, staff picks, across the top sales platforms. I’m pretty dang excited for this dream come true. Check it out here, if you’re interested. And if you’ve bought, downloaded, checked out from the library, shared, gifted, recommended, referred, or reviewed, thank you. More than you’ll ever know.


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6 Responses to Ending on a Good Note: The Story Behind the Story of my Three-Novel Protagonist Arcs

  1. Steph says:

    Omg!!!!! I CAN NOT wait for the novella starring all six protagonists (Katie, Emily, Michele, Ava, Maggie, and Laura) !!!!!! What?…. Are they like on a retreat together or something!!! All I can say is Yay! Yay! Yay!!!!!!!

    • Pamela says:

      Later ones they’ll be together deliberately, but in the prequel, they’re together accidentally (or some of them by accident, some of them on purpose). They all cross paths a few years before the SG timeline. It’s fun, and hard, and I’m mentally lazy right now so I’ve got a first draft done, and it’s languishing while I search for a horse. LOL. Shame on me. I think it’s fun. I hope it’s fun. It’s definitely neat to take them back in time.

  2. Peggy says:

    The only thing I have to say is I love your characters. Katie, I’m happy she’s happy. but I miss her! the crazy courtroom scene with her is one of my all time favorites…I still laugh over it. But Emily, I just fell in love with her…her heart, her love of kids and what’s right. Thank you, I’ve spent many a happy hour with them.

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you Peggy. That crazy courtroom scene is one of my favorites too. Katie will be back. I’m working on her now. She just has to share the stage. <3

  3. Eric says:

    What a wonderful blog. I love these looks into how and why you write what you do. It makes so much sense to me . I hope a good number of readers see this because I know that some are in agony for sequels but may not understand how your whole world interrelates. As always. Great stuff.

    • Pamela says:

      Thanks. I still remember that conversation between my editor and me about letting Katie rest. I wasn’t sure I agreed at the time, but only because of what other people wanted. When I got quiet and thought about how I viewed her, my books, and my other characters, I knew it was the way I wanted to take it.

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