Mercedes Thompson Book Series: How to Read Like a Writer
One of the best ways to learn how to write is to read, especially if you are writing a static book series. A static book series follows the same character or cast but each book has its own, distinct plot. Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson urban fantasy novels are a static book series authors can study to learn how to develop characters readers can’t get enough of (an essential part of a static book series) and to plant seeds you can use in later books.
When you embark on a static book series, you need a main character readers can’t get enough of, Mercedes Thompson is such a character. She’s a strong, shape-shifting, mechanically inclined, Blackfoot Native American woman who will not be pushed around by werewolves, fae, or any other creatures that come her way. This passage from Moon Called shows Mercy’s sass and thought process:
I opened my mouth to make a smart comment, but Darryl caught my eye and made a cutoff gesture with his hand. If I’d had a really good comeback, I’d have said it anyway, but I didn’t, so I kept my mouth shut (57).
Mercy is not afraid to put people in their place or throw insults right back, but she’s also not hotheaded or stupid. She is usually in control of her quick tongue and chooses when to press people’s buttons and when not to. Briggs doesn’t have to state any of this. This passage and others like it show those aspects of Mercy’s character.
Developing a quick-witted, funny character in particular requires you to show. If you state someone is funny, a reader will likely not internalize or even believe that characteristic unless you show them saying or doing something funny.
When you create a character for a static book series like Mercy, you need to show their personality traits. Stating the type of person your character is will not be enough to make your readers fall in love with them.
Planting Seeds and Watering Them
The same set of characters are seen over and over again in the Mercedes Thompson series. Each book reveals a little bit more about everyone, including Mercy. Readers want new information about the characters and world in each novel, and Briggs gives it to them. So should you.
The nice thing about a static book series is you don’t need to know everything about your characters and world when you start writing. You just need to plant seeds. Mercy briefly interacts with a vampire and a member of the fae in book one. These characters bring the main conflict for later books, but aren’t major players in the first one. You don’t have to know who is going to play a significant role in your entire series immediately because each book will have it’s own distinct plot.
If you plant seeds as you write, you can come back to them in later books and discover what they’ve grown into. An aversion to water could become your character’s weakness or an important fear they must overcome. That kid your character sees over and over again at the checkout counter could be a spy, a ghost, or an unknown relative.
At one point Mercedes Thompson comes across a magical walking stick that tends to randomly appear. Throughout a few books, the walking stick plays a minor role, both helping and getting in Mercy’s way. However, I a book late into the series, it becomes a crucial piece to the plot. Briggs likely didn’t know that walking stick would be so vital to her story when she first wrote about it. However, by continuing to water the idea, it grow into an important, impactful component of her books.
I want to quickly note seeds are not loose threads. Seeds are people, objects, or world points that interesting in the moment they are introduced, but not necessarily a part of the plot. Some seeds will never grow, and that’s okay. However, all threads should be tied up by the end of a series.
Why an Editor Recommends Writers Read the Mercedes Thompson Static Book Series
Patricia Briggs has been one of my favorite authors since before I became a writer, and I still appreciate her writing skills. I can’t say that for all of the books I enjoyed before writing. However, Mercy’s series did fizzle out for me. I recommend reading the first 6-7 books if you enjoy them. By book seven, several characters are complete, and to me, the series felt like it wanted to be over.
One of the reasons I recommend reading Brigg’s series is because of the way it presses on. As the author, you need to be cognizant of your story arc, characters, and plot. When those things come to a natural conclusion, it is time to stop or at least shift gears. Series don’t last forever. Don’t be one of those writers who forces more books out and dilutes the whole series. Learn from Briggs and other authors who’ve made this mistake.
However, those first 6-7 books are absolutely worth reading. You’ll learn how to plant seeds and develop your static series characters to Ignite Your Ink.
What do you lover about the Mercedes Thompson or another static book series? Share your thoughts in the comments below. For more articles on writing series and a free point of view comparison chart, subscribe to Ignite Your Ink.
Ignite Your Ink is written by editor and author Caitlin Berve. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, actively participates in multiple writers’ organizations, and is dedicated to helping writers produce content that leaves an impression on readers.