Have you ever grown tired of your favorite characters? Have you ever felt like they've stayed around a little too long... like they haven't changed at all, in say, the last eight books of the series you're reading? I find myself feeling this way sometimes, with episodic-type series (not as much with series with continuing story lines), and I really wish the authors would hear me and just let their darlings die!
Sir Arthur Conon Doyle created one of literature's most iconic and beloved characters: Sherlock Holmes. Doyle wrote--from 1887 to 1927--fifty-six short stories, and four novels featuring the eccentric detective. If you're familiar with the stories, you know that Doyle tried killing off Sherlock at one point. I don't know why, but I imagine that the author had grown tired of his creation. There are only so many stories one can tell through the same lens, after all. But readers and publishers demanded more Sherlock, and so the detective was brought back from the dead, and Doyle continued to write about him until the end of his life.
James Bond, in my opinion, is a character that needs to die. My main reason for this: the author who originally created the character is dead, and there are no more Bond books being published. Also, twenty-three movies is enough! For once, I'd like to see Bond fail. Because it would be new, thereby exciting. Will this ever happen? Probably not. Bond movies make money, and so Bond movies will continue to get made. It's a shame. It would be so much more interesting to have an end.
Back to Sherlock. I saw the new movie a couple months back, and enjoyed it nearly as much as the first. (Spoilers ahead) At the end, Sherlock supposedly dies. They have a funeral for him and Watson writes down his experiences with the man. Up to this point in the film, I was on the edge of my seat (stupid me). I couldn't believe Hollywood was going to end a series with only two films, with the hero kicking the bucket. I couldn't believe it, but I was totally satisfied. I felt that the two Sherlock films had done everything they needed to do. They had a great arc (story and character), and Sherlock's death was meaningful. I was ready to leave the theater pumped. And then Sherlock wasn't dead. Only hiding for some unknown reason, from all the people who cared about him. In fact, not informing his friends that he was alive seemed only to cash in on an earlier gag in the movie. I was pissed. (Still like the movie.)
When is it time for characters to die? How many books should a writer pen with the same faces? Jim Butcher has written over a dozen stories with the same character. Vince Flynn has done the thriller genre to death with his Rapp character. Clive Cussler, Bernard Cornwell, Robert B. Parker... the list of authors that spend a career doing this goes on and on. I always thought writers were creative types. Can't they come up with new characters to make us care about? Or are some of them one-trick ponies, rehashing the same old same old to make a buck?
Long, multi-volume series with a continuous story line (The Wheel of Time) fall into a similar trap. But that's for another time. For now, will authors please give me interesting, fully-realized characters that don't overstay their welcome? Three books, maybe four? I think that would be just grand, thanks.