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I’ve been reading the Sookie Stackhouse books, by Charlaine Harris.  A friend leant me the first nine as a box set, so I had plenty of reading to be going on with.

For those who don’t know, Sookie is a human barmaid living in Louisiana.  She has been blessed (cursed?) with the gift of telepathy, and finds it hard to get along with people when she knows what they’re thinking.  A few years ago, after the invention of a synthetic blood called TrueBlood, vampires came “out of the coffin” and announced their existence to the world.  When Sookie meets one, she is delighted to find that she can’t read his mind, and thus begins her adventures in the world of the supernatural.

The books are a fun romp, for the most part – chick lit with vampires as it were.  No heavy thinking required.  Each one is a self-contained adventure, unlike some other series I’ve come across, so it’s possible to stop any time you want.

And yet, there is always some nagging question at the end, something to make you wonder if the explanation will be forthcoming in the next book.  And in the next book, your question is answered, but you’re left with another question.  It’s a brilliant example of teasing the reader just enough to keep them reading.

Having said that, it’s getting a bit frustrating now.  I want closure.  I want to be able to put the series away and say “that was really good, and now I’ll read something completely different for a while”.

So my question is this:  when is enough enough?  When should an author give up on a series?  Is it when they run out of fresh ideas for problems their characters can have?  Is it when the readers get bored and stop buying the books?  Is it when they run out of sensible titles with the word “dead” in them?

What do you think?

Philip Pullman is just about to publish a book called “Grimm Tales for Young and Old” – a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales rewritten in more modern language.  From what I can tell from the publicity, the plots and endings are exactly the same, and only the language as been updated.  The question is, is it cheating if you don’t come up with your own storylines?

I’m not talking about modern versions here – for example, Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a sci fi version of Cinderella – but it’s different enough to the original that you want to read it anyway, just to find out what’s going to happen.  (Seriously, it’s a good book – Cinder is a cyborg, people live on the moon, and there are psychic powers.  I couldn’t put it down.  The sequel isn’t out until January, and I’m already chomping at the bit.)

I’m also not talking about people who take myths and legends and twist them to almost unrecognisable perversions of themselves – like Julian May’s Saga of the Exiles, which involves the Tuatha de Daanan and Balor One-Eye, although they are actually aliens and have different names.

There are plenty of other examples of good re-imaginings.

But Mr Pullman’s book does feel, at least from the descriptions, as if there’s nothing new in it.  No reason to read it if you have read the originals.  Maybe not even if you haven’t.  If other people – you or I for example – had tried to publish this book, we would have been laughed at.  He can only do it because he’s already famous.  At least, that’s how it feels.

What do you think?

I was thinking about character quirks – the things that make a character unique and interesting.  It occurred to me that there are some pretty obvious examples of those quirks being central to the story line, and also linked to brain damage.

50 First Dates

The main character in this film is a young woman who has been in an accident.  She now has anterograde amnesia, which means that she can’t form new memories.  Every night she goes to sleep and wakes up the next morning thinking it’s the morning of her accident.  It’s a romantic comedy, so as you can imagine the male lead goes to some interesting lengths in order to win her heart!


This one is anterograde amnesia again.  This time, the amnesia affects not just the story but the presentation of it, with some of the scenes not occurring in chronological order.  My personal favourite is the scene that starts with a chase through a car park.  The voice-over (from the main character) goes something like this:

“I’m running.  Why am I running?  Am I chasing that guy?”

The other man shoots at him.

“No, he’s chasing me!”

Regarding Henry

I haven’t seen this one, but the plot summaries on the interwebs look interesting.  Harrison Ford is a mean, unethical lawyer, who gets shot in the head during a robbery.  He gets retrograde amnesia, meaning he can’t remember anything that happened in his life until that point.

He has to get to know his family all over again, and realises he doesn’t like the person he used to be.  It’s a film about second chances.


Sufferers of prosopagnosia can’t recognise people from their faces, but usually have no problem with other items.  A person suffering from this problem would not be able to tell the difference between their own children, for example, or between their best friend and a spy from a foreign nation.

The film is about a man who witnesses a murder, but can’t identify the murderer because he suffers from the condition.  To make matters worse, he is the key suspect in the murder!

Again, I’ve not seen it, but I wanted to include a film that wasn’t about memory loss, since that seems to be the main way brain damage enters into films.


Most films that involve brain damage seem to focus on memory loss of one kind or another.  Other types of brain damage seem to result in obscure films which I haven’t heard of… although that’s not really saying much, since I’m more of a book person.

What films can you think of to either bolster or destroy my theory?  Are there other types of brain damage which would make a good plot?

When you first come up with an idea for a novel, what comes first?  The Plot?  The Characters?  Or the Situation?  I often find that the situation comes first, characters next, and plot last.  For example:

  • Wouldn’t it be interesting if we lived in a world where there were two dominant species on the planet?
  • Hmmm, I wonder what sort of person would be interesting to read about in a world like that?  Maybe someone of mixed heritage.  Or someone who started being a species-ist and ends up in love with one of the Others.
  • How would that even happen?  I guess they would have to be doing something that put them into contact with the other species, maybe they’ve been re-assigned at work and their new partner is the other species, or…

And so it continues.  Usually the first few plots that spring to mind are a bit lame.  Sometimes it takes days of percolating in the back of my mind to get something useable.  I don’t recall ever having come up with a plot first and then found the world and characters that fit it.

How does it work for you?

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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