Different

I love that you would never confuse one A. Lee Martinez book for another.  They have certain similarities, shared themes, but in terms of pure plot description, you would never mistake any of my books for another.  This is not just the advantage of not writing a series.  It’s something that happened, quite by accident.

I have nothing against series, and I fault no writer for creating one.  There’s a lot of advantages to a series.  Series allow writers to tell more involved stories with characters the audience can come to know and love.  And I have little doubt it’s easier to build an audience with a series, which might seem like a superficial reason for creating a series, but hey, a writer has to eat, right?

But the pitfall of writing a recurring universe is, no matter how hard you try, eventually you’re going to be repeating yourself.  I remember when I bought a book, the latest in a long-running series, for a friend.  She read the back of the book and said she was pretty sure she’d already read it.  She hadn’t (the book had literally come out the week before).  But jut reading the plot summary on the back made it hard to tell this.  It had the same hero.  The same unresolved love interest.  The same type of villain.  The same city.  The same recurring side characters.  The bits of it that were different didn’t particularly stand out in the description of the book.

That doesn’t mean the actual story was cookie cutter.  Execution is everything, in the end.  And even if the story was 95 percent the same, that 5 percent that was different could have made all the difference in the world.  Also, people don’t always want different.  People, more often than they admit or possibly even realize, like the same.

Don’t mistake my point here.  I am not saying I am more creative or a better writer than anyone.  I’m only saying that, in the broad strokes, you aren’t going to make the above mistake with an A. Lee Martinez novel.  Perhaps it’s only on a superficial level.  Perhaps not.  Either way, it’s true.

But I’d like to believe it isn’t superficial.  I’d like to believe it makes me a stronger writer.  I can’t resort to my singular bag of tricks, my particular default solution.  Oh, it’s not uncommon for my stories to have a slime monster in them.  Or a giant cosmic clash at the end.  But the resolution is still different.  Mack Megaton, the powerful war robot, punches out his troubles in a way that Nessy, the tiny kobold housekeeper, cannot.  And while In the Company of Ogres and Chasing the Moon might be about superpowerful god-like entities and the problems they cause, the resolution of those problems are different enough that I feel they aren’t the same story.  Or, at least, if you’ve read one, you aren’t going to necessarily going to guess the end of the other.

I could be wrong, but it still feels good to even think it’s possible.

I like this about my stories.  And while I’m certain I’m not the only writer out there that this is true about, it is at least something that separates me from the pack, and while I’d happily throw that away if someone was willing to pay me a few hundred thousand dollars to sell out, until that happens, I’ll take what I can get.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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3 Comments

  1. Mark
    Posted October 16, 2012 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    I thought I remember you writing that you would write a sequel if someone threw a million dollars at you, so I think your price is going down. But seriously, I really enjoy that each new book is a new world. I don’t mind a series if it’s good, but I am always reluctant to start a new one. It’s also much easier to convince someone to try one of your books, since they stand alone and aren’t 800 pages long.

  2. Javier Cortez
    Posted October 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I know a story about a time traveler from a parallel dimension who wants us to go to war with Russia and China, so as to save our Constitutional rights. True Story.

  3. Posted November 4, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    I have always thought that your story characters are perfect RPG character material. The stories themselves are great RPG settings in and of themselves.

    So while I would read any series built on great stories like “In the Company of Ogres” or any of the others, I can create my own recurring follow ups in my game.

    (for what it’s worth, I GM AD&D 1E/OSRIC based games)

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