Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Death of Jackson Donne

Okay, Jackson Donne's not really dead (no matter Duane Swierczynski's best wishes), but he is resting.

When authors take breaks with their series, they often say the character's voice has gone away. They can't find it anymore. I always thought that was bunk. The character is always there, and there are often new challenges for him or her.

You want to try something else? That's fine. Try something else. But don't tell us the character's voice has gone away. That just writer mumbo jumbo.

Annnnnndddd then I finished THE EVIL THAT MEN DO.

And Jackson Donne's voice went away.

I think it has to do with the ending of EVIL. Donne is left in a place where he's never been before. Upbeat.

There are fewer challenges for him personally. I've tried to shoehorn him into a few stories, but they've fizzled out. Donne is getting older, doing the college thing, and trying to distance himself from being a PI.

But that doesn't mean he can't come back. There are plenty of open-ended ideas that came up in WHEN ONE MAN DIES and THE EVIL THAT MEN DO that could come back and haunt Donne at some point in the future.

But not yet.

What do you writers think? Can a characters voice just go away?

And readers... do you want a series to continue or would you rather a writer takes a break here or there?


Gerald So said...

I think it depends what kind of voice the character has in the first place. A distinctive, intimate, first-person voice can be tough to rediscover after writing others. By comparison, third-person characters rely less on voice.

A writer's method of drafting stories is another factor. A story can only be planned out so far. Its spontaneity comes from the voice(s) telling the story. Voices eventually deviate from plans, and if the writer doesn't follow, the story is often worse for it.

Like any style choice, there are pros and cons. You can probably stay in a character's voice if you write about him exclusively, but if you do, your overall writing may not develop much beyond that character. On the other hand, if you don't write a character for a long while--years, say--you may lose his voice.

I find it helps to make characters as well-rounded as possible, give them room to move within the lines that initially define them. The old adage is characters are consistent while people are not, but completely consistent characters--always do this, always say that--eventually get stale.

"What's he going to do in Book 15?"

Pretty much what he's done since Book 10.

Spencer said...


Thanks for writing this article. As a fan of Jackson Donne, it helps me realize why you aren't writing him right now.

I still think "Closure" is one of the best short stories I have read.

Not being a writer, I have no idea if the voice can go away or not, but once I like a character I am always wanting more.

Dana King said...

As a reader, I like to see a series continue. But only if the author hasn't lost the character's voice. ;)

"Losing the character's voice" isn't the term I would use, but it works, and I can see how it could happen. I left the series I was working on a few years ago, but it was because I had stories I wanted to write where he didn't fit in. He eased his way back into the most recent project as a guest star, and this winter's project will be his again.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

I think sometimes an author needs to take a break in order to really make the voice fresh and interesting again. I'd rather an author take a break for a while and come back strong instead of just writing books that aren't as interesting or fresh. I've seen this in some of my favorite series and after a few books they stop being must reads. I hate when that happens.

Russel said...

Let me just say I thought I'd never write a Sam Bryson story again. Then the DSD father's day antho came up and suddenly...

Sometimes its just a matter of right story, right time.

Anonymous said...

When Northcoast Shakedown came out, I had the second one off to the publisher (who imploded one month before that book's release), #3 drafted, and a whole story arc for Nick Kepler mapped out that would keep him alive through 12 books. He would marry a minor character who appears in every book written so far and have an ambiguous fate stemming from "A Walk in the Rain."

And then the Great Publishing Disaster of 2006 happened, and Nick went on hiatus.

I have an idea for him now. He's no longer in Cleveland, and somehow, he's gotten sleazy and jaded.