Writers are always told to “Write the same but different. Give the reader what they expect, but make it slightly different so it stands out. Just be sure you don’t jump the shark.”
Those of you who are my age know what “jump the shark” refers to. It’s that idiom that refers to doing something so outrageous your TV show (or book in my case) begins to drop in quality and can’t be resurrected. Fonzie, in an episode of Happy Days, literally “jumped a shark” on water skis, and it was at that moment that the TV series was doomed to end. This advice sounds easy, but really it’s just plain hard. Same but different…same but different…these words have become as engrained in my mind as goal, motivation and conflict. And as a fantasy writer, I tend to take them to heart—after all, I can easily do different—but how different is TOO different?
Writers are, by nature, neurotic, so we overthink everything. (Big surprise, huh?) Every time I turn in a book, I have a moment of, “Is my editor going to think I’ve totally lost it?” Take TEMPTED, the third book in my Eternal Guardians series, for example. I threw some mythological creatures stranded on a magical island into that book. It was pretty “out there” for the series. Up until then there’d been no real creatures in my books. People, yes. Daemons and gods, yes. Fire breathing, multi-headed dragons? No. I thought for sure my editor was going to ask what the hell I’d been smoking when I was writing. Lucky for me (and my readers) she didn’t. And as it turns out, that magical island—and its creatures—will come back into play in a later book and will be important to the overarching plot. But it doesn’t stop me from wondering why it worked. And how far is too far for readers.
I have my own assumptions…and you can tell me if you agree or disagree. My magical creatures worked in TEMPTED because they were all creatures you find in Greek mythology. Since I write a Greek mythology based series, I wouldn’t be true to the myths if I omitted some of the creatures for which the myths are most known. All the heroes became heroes because they defeated a certain creature. Without those creatures, then, the Greek heroes wouldn’t be who they are (mythologically, of course) today. The other reason this addition worked is because I write fantasy. If I was writing romantic suspense or historicals or humorous contemporaries, and I threw in a fire-breathing dragon, I’d lose my readers in a heartbeat. But in fantasy…you come to expect the unexpected. Anything is possible so long as it fits with the story and stays true to the basis of the series.
There are new creatures in ENSLAVED, book 5 in the Eternal Guardians series. Creatures readers might not expect but who are important now and will be important at the end of the series. Creatures my characters have to fight in order to stay alive. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but everything comes full circle. If you see something bizarre in this book, believe it will come back around again at the end. I have a plan, and I’m not shark jumping just for the fun of it.
How about you? How far is too far? Can you think of something an author threw into a book that you didn’t expect? Did it work or not? And can you think of any book/series where something was just so bizarre it turned you off to reading the rest of the books in the series?
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ENSLAVED BY ELISABETH NAUGHTON – IN STORES NOVEMBER 2012
“Do not miss this series.”—New York Times bestselling author Larissa Ione
GRYPHON—Honorable, loyal, dependable…tainted. He was the ultimate warrior before imprisonment in the Underworld changed him in ways he can’t ignore.
She calls to him. Come to me. You can’t resist. But Gryphon will not allow himself to be ruled by the insidious whispers in his head. And there’s only one way to stop them: kill Atalanta, the goddess who enslaved him. But with so much darkness inside, he can’t be sure what’s real anymore. Even the Eternal Guardians, those who protect the human realms and the gods, want to exile him.
Finding Malea is like a miracle. Somehow he doesn’t feel the pull of the dark when she’s near. And he’s determined to keep her as near as possible, whether she wants him close or not. But she’s a temptation that will test every bit of control he has left. One that may ultimately have the power to send him back to the Underworld…or free him from his chains for good.
Praise for Elisabeth Naughton:
“Entertaining and smoldering.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review of Tempted
“Creative worldbuilding and ever-present danger pull the reader into this mesmerizing tale.” —RT Book
Reviews, 4 ½ star review of Enraptured
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A former junior high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton traded in her red pen and test-tube set for a laptop and research books. She now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full-time from Oregon, where she lives with her husband and three children. Her work has been nominated for numerous awards, including the RWA RITA© Award, the NJ RWA Golden Leaf, and the RWA Golden Heart. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park, or dreaming up new and adventures. Visit her at Website and follow her on Twitter