Writing a Series—It’s All in the Protagonist by Saralyn Richard

Writing a Series—It’s All in the Protagonist

by Saralyn Richard


A man wearing a hat photo – Free On Image on Unsplash


I never planned to write a series. My first mystery novel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, set in the lush landscape of Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania, centered around a birthday party where old college buddies were reunited for a weekend retreat. Old flames, old rivalries, old resentments resurfaced, and one of the party-goers ended up dead.

Enter Detective Oliver Parrott, young, ambitious, and Black, an outsider in this ritzy community—the better to see through the closed ranks and subterfuge. Undazzled by materialism, Parrott keeps a dogged focus on the people who have had it in for the victim, and readers have responded to Parrott’s character in ways that surprised me.

“We want more Parrott,” I kept hearing, and I found myself wanting to stay with the well-grounded detective, as well. Since that time, I have written a three more Detective Parrott books. I’ve seen Parrott mature and marry. He’s made a name for himself in Brandywine and beyond. He’s tackled challenging cases, faced dangers, stood up for the innocent, and hounded the guilty.

Parrott and Tonya, his fiancée and then wife, make a remarkable duo. Their relationship isn’t perfect (whose ever is?), but whenever one of them needs support and a listening ear, the other is there to give them.

One of my readers leaned over the space between her seat and mine at the theater and said, “Please, please don’t ever let Parrott and Tonya divorce.” Remarks like that let me know that others are invested in my series characters as much as I am. I love spending time with Parrott and his family, as well as the recurring characters in Brandywine Valley and in the West Brandywine police department. It’s like visiting old friends and catching up on their lives.

I’m pretty sure I’ll never run out of things for them to say or do, experiences they need to have, lessons they need to learn. As in real life, there are always surprises, secrets, challenges, and joys. There are always new issues to be confronted, new insights to be gained.

In the next few months, the fourth Detective Parrott book, MURDER OUTSIDE THE BOX, will launch. Parrott is sharper than ever as he deals with an abandoned baby and the murder of a postpartum woman. Parrott’s relationship with Tonya spills over into his case, and vice versa, until the two bits of life are woven into a single fabric.

After more than seven years and twelve hundred pages spent with Parrott and his wife, I’m not sure what path their lives will take next, but one thing I am sure of—they’ll never be bored. And with so much trouble going on in the world, it’s good to have good people like Detective Parrott around to find the truth and right the wrongs.

Who is your favorite fictional protagonist?

Award-winning author and educator, Saralyn Richard writes about people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. She loves beaches, reading, sheepdogs, the arts, libraries, parties, nature, cooking, and connecting with readers. Look for her latest Detective Parrott mystery, MURDER OUTSIDE THE BOX, coming soon.

Visit Saralyn at http://saralynrichard.com

15 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    The funny thing is that I have so many favorite protagonists. I’ll go with one for awhile…and then switch to another. I attribute this to either being a fickle person or reading so many books that I adore most of the protagonists.

    • Saralyn
      Saralyn says:

      I weave in and out of series/protagonists, too. I think it has to do with where I am in my life at the time. I read all the Kay Scarpetta books by Patricia Cornwell for a lot of years, but haven’t read a single one recently.

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    I never planned on writing a series, either, Saralyn, until my first publisher suggested it. It’s wonderful that dedicated fans can keep you going, and that ideas for new scenarios keep coming. I have many favorites among other writer’s protagonists. I’m always thrilled to find new favorites, too. And of course, I can’t wait to see what new case Parrot is going to solve!

  3. Peg Brantley
    Peg Brantley says:

    I admit I love the Alex Cross series by James Patterson. And right now I’m reading book #18 in the DCI Jack Logan series by JD Kirk (a pen name for Barry Hutchison). So hooked! And don’t get me started on Pendergast by Preston and Child. And guess what? I just bought MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT. I can’t wait to read it!

    • Saralyn
      Saralyn says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Peg. I love Alex Cross, too. And Harry Bosch. Excited that you are going to meet Parrott. I think you’ll love him.

  4. Sydney Leigh
    Sydney Leigh says:

    I’m excited to hear there’s another Detective Parrott book in the works!! I love so many series! My favorite might be the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay.

  5. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    Series protagonists become part of the family. That’s part of the reason we come to love certain protagonists.

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