Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author. This week’s topic is the advantages and disadvantages of familiar locations, subjects, and ideas.

I know it’s been a few weeks since there’s been the familiar routine of seeing this column every Sunday. It reminded me that perhaps discussing the use of familiar scenes, subjects, or ideas in writing might be an interesting topic to spend a few moments on.

Sometimes familiarity can be an advantage, such as when authors are writing a series. Readers expect the lead character to behave the same from story to story, and that their general surroundings and main friends (and sometimes opponents) be people that they come to know and more about over time. 

A negative use of familiarity would be embodied by the use of tropes, or the common use of these and ideas. This creates stories so predictable that the reader can guess ahead on the story lines. When combined with already familiar characters and locales, there could turn out to be absolutely nothing a reader wants to invest in, and they may not even finish the book.

See you all again next week, in the usual place.