Okay. This is very emotionally disturbing for me…so cut me a little slack as I get hysterical later.
You guys know how I feel about readers, and readers being God as far as I’m concerned, and blah blah blah. You also know that I have said publicly, right here on this blog, that characters belong to writers and they know them better than readers do.
Well, as Ben Franklin said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Because I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately. See, in the comics world, reader loyalty is a big deal. reader opinion can actually change stories. While this may not always be good, I think in a series it is a good thing. And perhaps I’m not as inconsistent as I originally thought because really, despite the enormous popularity of Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris wasn’t strictly writing a series.
But series are different. Readers get very, very emotionally involved in the lives of ongoing characters in books. You introduce someone in one book and they die in the next? Well, yeah, that’s sad. You introduce someone in one book, marry her to the MC of the book, and then have her brutally murdered while eight months pregnant, thirteen fucking books later? And then, as a sequel to that soul-destroying carnage, you write a sequel book about the kid who committed the brutal murder, and what he did before committing said murder? 400 pages of this shit?
You, my friend, must hate me.
Elizabeth George? She hates me.
You must understand. It isn’t just how awful the senseless death of a pregnant woman makes us instinctively feel (Lacey Peterson, anyone?) It isn’t just that the murdered woman was someone we all liked and trusted from the first page of the first book, someone we thought of as a friend, someone whose happiness we were pulling for. Or that in marrying her, her husband seemed to finally be coming into his own again and growing up.
It’s that once we discovered she was pregnant, we had to wait FOUR GODDAMN YEARS, breathlessly anticipating the birth of the baby, wondering what it would be, wondering how our intrepid detective would deal with having a vulnerable baby at home. Eagerly we sat through one volume of self-written short stories, one nonfiction book about writing, and one volume of short stories written by other people edited by Elizabeth George. We plodded on through a not-very-satisfying book about irritating minor characters, all the while thinking this was the longest literary pregnancy in the history of the world (which it may or may not be.)
Four fucking years we were strung along, only to have the lady die in what was essentially a drive-by shooting, totally unconnected with the rest of the book. It wasn’t even that clean or simple. Our friend, our detective, had to make the decision to turn off his pregnant wife’s life support.
The hubs called me from Tesco the other day. “Elizabeth George has a new book out. Do you want it?” he asked, a little warily, because he remembered the fury with which I finished the last one and what a miserable mood I was in for days.
I hemmed and hawed and told him to bring it to me. Curiosity killed the cat.
But in this case satisfaction most definitely does NOT bring it back. I am done. Done, done, done. That I was treated with such contempt is absolutely beyond my ability to forgive.
I know when you write series books things have to change. I know readers aren’t always going to be happy. It isn’t the death that bothers me so much (I mean it does, it totally does, but). What bothers me is that I wated so long for it, and now, just over a year later, I have another book about the same fucking incident. No aftermath. I still don’t know how any of these people are dealing with what happened.
(What makes matters worse is the rumors that have flown around for some time, saying that this death was written because the TV series made from the books–which isn’t a good series, btw–has gone in a different direction with the relationship, and so did not marry the detective and his wife, etc., and that they wanted the books more in line with the series. I don’t know if I’ll go that far.)
But I am literally shaking with rage. If you hate me so much, Ms. George, just stop writing the books and do something different. What you did to me was inexcusable, and expecting me to read the same horrible, depressing story twice is arrogance beyond measure.
(I’m going to post more about how this relates to series books tomorrow or Wed.)