Let’s Talk Character Arcs And Dynamic Worlds…

Druid Arcane audiobook coverEarlier today I was checking out the most recent reviews for Druid Arcane, like I always do with new releases, and I noticed a 3-star review sticking out like a sore thumb amidst all the five star reviews on the page.

To be honest, a three-star review doesn’t really bother me. Of course, I don’t like getting them, because they bring your review rating average down, which can hurt book sales. But I don’t mind reading them because the comments are usually gold.

Thankfully, the reviews for Book 11 have been overwhelmingly positive to this point, and readers have been going bonkers over this latest entry in the Colin McCool series. So, I was curious to know why the reader gave the book a mediocre review. 

Why Character Arcs Make Fiction Better

Lo and behold, the reason why the reader gave the book three stars was not due to the quality of the novel, but personal preference. This reader said he enjoyed the earlier stories when Belladonna, Hemi, and Fallyn made regular appearances.

That’s legitimate. It’s not necessarily a legitimate gripe with regards to story quality, but it is a legitimate reason for a reader to dislike a later entry in a series. People like things that are familiar, and they especially like for things to stay the same—I get that.

However, keeping things the same does not make for good fiction. When characters don’t evolve over the course of a story, they seem one-dimensional. And they are, because static characters are nothing more than cardboard cutouts used to fill a narrative.

Struggle Makes A Character Believable

Likewise, plopping a fully-realized and self-actualized character into a story as the protagonist makes for equally dull and uninspiring fiction. Nothing is more boring than a Mary Sue or Marty Stu character, because they never have to earn or learn anything to advance toward their intended goal.

In other words, stagnant characters suck, and perfect characters suck even more. That’s why Colin started off as a bumbling, underachieving, and dare I say whiny teenage kid. He needed space to grow as a character, and I gave him that.

Since I planned the Junkyard Druid novels as a twelve-book series (I will write more, but that’s what I initially planned), Colin goes through micro and macro characters arcs. He experiences a minor character arc in each novel, and he’s also going through a major character arc over the entire series.

That’s what brings a character to life—they change. If you’re in the eleventh book in a series and your main character is still doing the same stuff they did in Book 1, what’s the point? All good characters evolve… which brings me to my next reason for mixing things up.

World Building Tip: The Only Consistency Is Entropy

As a writer and reader, I prefer dynamic worlds. Meaning, I like worlds that change. Good world-building should give the impression that things are going on behind the scenes and in other places at all times. One way to create that illusion for the reader is to allow the world to change.

And if you think about it, in real life nothing ever stays the same. Sure, certain things are cyclical, like the economy, fashion trends, and William Shatner’s career. But for the most part, the only thing you can count on is that things are going to change.

That’s why I’ve consistently sought to bring something new to each novel in Colin’s series. While I could have simply served up the same old meal on a new plate with each additional entry to the series, instead I changed the settings, supporting characters, and villains in each and every book.

Other Reasons For Changing Things Up

And, there are other reasons for changing the tried and true. Prolific authors often mix things up by writing in different genres, or bouncing back and forth between series. There are legitimate reasons why said authors do this:

1. They get tired of reading the same old stuff, over and over again.
2. They get tired of writing the same old stuff, over and over again.

I’m no different. And being an INTJ, I require more variety in my professional pursuits than the average person. Since I’m writing a single series in marathon fashion, I need to change things up with each novel so I don’t get bored and drop the series.

Same Novel, Different Cover?

Other authors might be content to crank out the same novel dressed up in a new plot with each new entry in their series. And that’s fine for them—it’s a hell of a lot easier to produce novels quickly when you use the same formula each time.

But, that’s not good enough for me. And while I know some readers might wish that I’d bring back the same old supporting characters and settings in every new book in Colin’s series, my goal is to surprise you with every new book.

For those who enjoy being surprised, hopefully I’ve done that with Druid Arcane. And for those who want to see old characters and sidekicks again, don’t worry—Book 12 will bring them all back for the grand finale of Colin’s initial macro story arc. Let’s just hope Colin doesn’t blow his world up in the process… 


  1. Donna Vitarelli on August 14, 2020 at 11:39 am

    I enjoy seeing old favourites make a return visit but loved the whole Loki and Click dynamic.

    • M.D. Massey on August 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Glad to hear it, Donna! That version of Loki had been floating around in my head for quite some time. Based on the sagas, I always saw him as this sort of smarmy party-playboy, and I never thought that Marvel went far enough in portraying him as such.

  2. Mal Jones on August 14, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Arcane, was for me the best – one of the earlier novels with the not-so dead girlfriend I didn’t find entertaining at all – but chacun à son goût. This book though, was nicely balanced and the loss of having to let somebody go, whether it be a family member or a pet touched the right chord.

    • M.D. Massey on August 14, 2020 at 1:37 pm

      Thanks Mal! Yes, not everyone was thrilled with the appearance of dryad Jesse. But, I’m glad you enjoyed this novel.

  3. Hope Spicer on August 14, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    I agree 100 percent i don’t want my beloved characters staying in one Neverending cycle i enjoy the growth process. I also enjoy the side stories I feel like I know them all and could hang with some for a few adventures. Lol . I have to admit the land of FAE is my favorite but also gives me nightmares. Lol So as thing change and grow you can count on this reader to stick around for all if it.

    • M.D. Massey on August 17, 2020 at 8:58 am

      Thank you, Hope! You’ll see Colin return to Austin in Book 12, but chances are good he’ll take a side trip to Underhill as well. Stay tuned!

  4. Chris Ecclestone on August 15, 2020 at 2:53 am

    I love all your books. This one was pre ordered ASAP but I saved it for my summer holiday. In my opinion this was your best one yet. I have always wanted to read more of both my favourite side characters Click and Rowley and I got my wish in this one.
    I read a lot like most of your fans I suspect. My rule with reviewing a book is to never leave a bad review. I only leave good ones or dont leave one at all. If I didn’t like it then it just means it wasn’t for me, not that its a bad book. My opinion (and that’s all it is) should not be used negatively. I’ve never written a book (I wish I could) so it’s not for me to criticise someone who has. A good book or bad book is just a perspective thing based on the readers opinion and is there for unique. I love your books, I like pineapple on pizza, I’m sure someone will disagree but it doesn’t mean they are right anymore than I. If I read a good book I will congratulat the auther on a job well done, if it’s a book that I didn’t enjoy then I don’t, but in the words of Thumper “my momma said if ya can’t say nuffinc nice then you shouldn’t say nuffinc at all”
    Now your last book has raised a dilemma for me. As I’ve said, I love all your books and have given them all 5 stars. But this one was my favourite because it had Colin, Click and Rowley in it, my 3 favourite characters. (And time magic which is my secret little passion, but don’t get me started on that as I will be here all day). So now I need some sort of 5*+ or 6* system to express my utter love of this book. WTF dude, you broke the system!
    P. S
    I would love to read more about a certain Shewolf too…..


    • M.D. Massey on August 17, 2020 at 8:57 am

      Thanks Chris! Here’s some good news… Crowley is getting his own series, and Fallyn’s series is in the works. Thanks for your loyalty in sticking with the Colin McCool series!

      • Brad Nelson on August 19, 2020 at 7:11 pm

        Crowley is getting his own series??? That’s freaking awesome, you have built such an intriguing character I can’t imagine what sort of shenanigans he gets into.

        Ps – I can’t wait for book 12, I read through 10 and 11 in about 3 days because I absolutely could not put them down and that cliffhanger has my head spinning!

        • M.D. Massey on August 22, 2020 at 8:22 am

          Yup, Crowley is definitely getting his own series. Hopefully I’ll have the first book released by the end of the year.

  5. larry byrd on August 15, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    I love the book, I hope colin and bryn hook up later, since fallyns dad hates colin, The only gripe I have is that it seems colin can’t keep a relationship.

    • M.D. Massey on August 17, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Glad you enjoyed the book! There’s a good reason why Colin is unlucky in love. Part of it is because this series is strictly urban fantasy, in contrast to the glut of paranormal romance novels that are currently marketed on Amazon as UF. And, part of it is because it’s become sort of a running joke as the series has progressed. Eventually he’ll find true love, but first he has to save the universe… or at least his small part of it.

  6. Darrell Salvant on August 17, 2020 at 6:05 am

    When Druid Arcane going to be released as an audio book?

    • M.D. Massey on August 17, 2020 at 8:51 am

      Hi Darrell! It’s in production now. I expect production to take another two weeks, then expect it to spend 2-6 weeks (not a typo) in Audible’s QA review process before hitting Audible and Amazon. However, as soon as I get the finished audio files, I’ll upload it to other retailers.

  7. Cathy Fagan on August 20, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Ok, I just read above that there’s a Crowley series in the works. I. Can’t. WAIT. I love that guy. I also hope he kicks Belladonna to the curb and Colin tells her to get over herself or him. Either one. She whines too much. 😛

    I was also so intrigued to find out what Click did to Colin (alternate time line story arc) that I read (translation: inhaled) THAT series.

    Love love love your work, needs more adorable yet creepy trolls and stuff. 😉 (Elmooooo….)

    • M.D. Massey on August 22, 2020 at 8:24 am

      Then you’ll be happy to know that Colin will return to the Hellpocalypse in due time. Stay tuned!

Leave a Comment