Top Ten Ways to Know When a Series Should End

This is inspired, if you can call it that, by a panel I was on at ConClave.

Top Ten Ways for You, If You’re a Writer, to Know When Your Series Should Have Ended

10. If you had to ask, it was two books ago.

9. Your main character, who started out with fairly little power, can now eat mountains and crap rainbows.

8. Your main character, who used to just eat mountains and crap rainbows, can now go toe-to-toe with Chuck Norris.

7. Your readers openly express hope that any prophecies regarding the upcoming destruction of your fictional world come true as quickly as possible.

6. You base your next major series-changing revelation on whatever the defacers of your series’s Wikipedia page have come up with.

5. The most popular fan-written ‘slashfic’ story for your series is ‘Any Character in This Series-Slash-Wheat Thresher.’

4. You’ve been given enough money to retire to your own personal tropical island, which you’ve already populated with zombie dinosaurs and singing pirates for your personal entertainment.

3. Your characters have run out of prophecies to thwart and now spend most of their time thwarting each other with paddles.

2. You’re dead and even that hasn’t stopped your series.

1. The shark you jumped sued you for animal cruelty.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet. He lives under your bed.

The Source of My Ideas

I know where my ideas come from.

They come from the murky insides of my head, from the hole where I pour all the things I read and watch and think about. There are things that have been added recently, and things that have been fermenting for as long as I can recall. Many of these things have been in the soup so long all rememberance of where they came from before have eroded away, or become grossly distorted. Many of these things have combined with other things, becoming something else entirely.

They can see out of the hole. They know what’s going on, out in the Cartesian Theater where my illusion of consciousness and control hangs out, working the controls of the body. Sometimes, when something flashes across the stage, it draws these things. Makes them want to come out.

Other times, I have to reach in and haul them out, whether they’re done fermenting or not. The best bits are never quite ready for their showtimes… but I pull them out anyway. They come out in my words and my stories. In truth, they are also still in the hole, looking for new things to join to, to congeal with, and to ferment in.

That’s where my ideas come from. That’s why I read the strange things I love to read, knowing that even if I never consciously use what I read, it will still be down there, somewhere, becoming something else. Something that will one day come, willing or not, into words and light.

30 Days of Writing #29-30: Think About Writing? Tag Writer You Like?

29) How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

It comes up fairly often, as in several times a day. I could be thinking about details of a particular character either on the way to or coming back from my day job. I could think of a plot twist during a meeting. I could be trying to get to sleep when I start thinking of a setting, only to not be able to get to sleep because I want to think about it some more. It just keeps coming.

As far as In-Real-Life reminders of my writing… I want to say yes, because I’m sure it’s happened before, but I can’t summon any specifics right now.

(You know what? This ’30 Days’ thing is almost over, so I’m just gonna answer the last thing so I can move on to something different in this blog.)

30) Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

Right. Imma taggin’ Eric Burns-White, who some of you may know as the guy behind Websnark. I first met Eric through our mutual Superguy connections, and as we both wrote for that list, I came to be more and more impressed with his storytelling skills, the clarity of his prose, and the depth of his characters. (Even moreso on rereading that material, ten years or so later–it stands up extremely well.) The projects he worked on after moving on from Superguy showed his tremendous worldbuilding ability–when I earlier, in answer to another question, admitted I needed to work on that aspect of my work, I was thinking of Eric’s skill at this as the thing to aspire to. He makes it look easy, even though we both know it ain’t!

(This ends the 30 Days of Writing. Please tip your waitress on the way out.)

30 Days of Writing #28: Written a Character with Disabilities?

28) Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

One of my characters in Brutal Light, Lia Mardalos, is physically blind. She is, however, able to get around due to her advanced precognitive abilities, which in viewing short-term possible future paths let her see what is before her (and in the long-term, where she needs to go and what she needs to do to achieve her aims). She’s entirely viewed by others during the course of the novel, so her internal thoughts and ways of relating to the world are, as of now, unrevealed. This may change with my next book, tentatively titled Starless Midnight.

30 Days of Writing #26-27: Art and Appearances?

26) Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

I did one drawing of a couple of my Superguy characters, and another of them has been painted by an artist friend of mine, but I know not where the former picture has gone, and would have to get permission, dig out, and scan the latter. And none of my Brutal Light characters have yet been drawn, though I hope to change that between now and December. So… no pics, sorry.

27) Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

In Brutal Light, they do… in the sense that one character’s self-image, both physical and psychological, is a driving force for the story. I don’t put a lot of work into ‘designing’ characters before writing them, beyond establishing some basics. I like to return to the initial description and revise it to better fit the personality that emerges during the writing process.

30 Days of Writing #25: Characters With Pets?

25) Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

It’s kind of rare for my characters to have pets, now that I think about it. Neither Brutal Light nor True Places has any. The main characters in my serialized novelette nihil nations: Electricity in the Rain had a cat, but it was mainly a background detail. My other short works are notably petless. Some pets show up in my Superguy and SfStory writing, but these are also fairly minor (with the notable exception of Lucky, a six-foot-at-the-shoulder mutant cat who is actually someone else’s character anyway) or Not What They Seem.

My most notable usage of ‘pets’ comes in Onyx Fire, the kids book I co-wrote with my wife, Kristyn. It has various animals, domesticated and otherwise, who end up talking during the course of the story–my favorite being Jitters, a hyper-caffeinated, self-absorbed black squirrel… not a pet, okay, but still my favorite.