Dos and Don’ts of Writing Recurring Heroes (Part 1)

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The books found in Layla Reyne’s Agents Irish and Whiskey series, Charlie Cochet’s THIRDS series, Josh Lanyon’s All’s Fair series or the Chaos Station series I cowrote with Kelly Jensen have one thing in common: a recurring main couple. They’re a little different than your typical romance series, which tend to feature a new couple in each book.

On the plus side, readers get extra time with characters they’ve grown to love and cherish over the course of a series. On the downside, the writer has to figure out how to make each book work!

Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind if you’re tackling a series with recurring heroes.

DO understand that some subgenres are better for recurring heroes than others

If you’re writing a contemporary romance where the main plot is the relationship development, that’s probably not going to translate well over multiple books.

Subgenres that lend themselves well to multiple books with the same heroes are romantic suspense, science fiction, paranormal, fantasy, mystery, etc. Basically anything where there’s a bigger picture plot that helps drive the story and the characters from the outside, while the romance drives the characters from the inside.

DO have arcs in mind for each plot and hero per book and for the series as a whole.

Each book needs to be a satisfying story for the reader, and by the time they finish the series, they should feel like they’ve just enjoyed a five-star meal where everything came together perfectly.

Chaos Station by Jenn Burke, Kelly JensenFor example, in Chaos Station, we had the romance plot of Felix and Zed reuniting after years of thinking they were both dead and/or unreachable, and the sci-fi/action plot of them tracking down an old friend who was involved in the same experiments as Zed. Both of those plots have a satisfactory ending by the close of the book, but the overarching plots continue: the overall romance plot of Zed and Felix fighting for their HEA, and the overall sci-fi/action plot of the mystery as to why the omnipotent alien race of the Guardians stopped the war between the humans and stin.

The heroes need to develop in each book as well. They can’t remain static. The changes don’t have to be dramatic in each installment, but by the end of the series, they should not be the same as they were at the beginning. For example, in the Chaos Station series, Zed starts off as a jaded, wounded, closed-off warrior waiting to die. By book five, he’s more hopeful, happy and eager for the future.

DON’T manufacture romantic obstacles

Readers will be able to tell when an element was thrown in by the author because the author didn’t know how else to challenge the heroes’ romance. For example, random cheating when it doesn’t fit in with the character’s flaws, lengthy separation of the characters (that’s resolved in each book but occurs again in the next), misunderstandings that are blown out of proportion, decisions/choices that don’t fit with the hero’s previous actions/thoughts, etc.

Above all else, readers want to feel that the story’s characters are real people, so you need to make sure you don’t introduce elements that knock readers out of that fantasy. That said, realistic is not necessarily what you’re going for here; I’d say consistently believable is a better goal, since sometimes your characters are going to not be anywhere near the realm of realism.

For more tips, tune in next week for part 2!

About Give Up the Ghost:

Give Up The Ghost by Jenn BurkeThe bigger they are, the harder they maul.

Immortal not-ghost Wes Cooper and his vampire partner, Hudson Rojas, have it all—rewarding private investigation work, great friends and, most important, a love that’s endured. But ever since Wes sent a demon screaming back to the beyond, his abilities have grown overpowering and overwhelming. He’s hiding the fact that he’s losing control the best he can, but it’s hard to keep anything a secret for long when your partner’s a former cop…and especially when your partner’s a former cop who wants to move in together.

When all hell literally breaks loose in Toronto and superstrength ghosts are unleashed on Wes and his friends, he and Hudson are thrown into a case unlike any they’ve seen before. To save the city, Wes needs to harness his new power…and find some answers. But when he gets them, the solution to fix it all could mean losing everything.

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