This guest post is by Fiona Ingram.
Developing a book series is both rewarding and taxing for the author. It is not an exact science and neither is it a guaranteed road to writing success. Many authors might think, Aha! Captive audience. They’ll just keep coming back for more. In fact, many agents and publishers advise against it. However, when either the story or the characters take over, sometimes a writer has no choice.
There are three types of series:
1. The standalone books
2. The closely linked books
3. A combination of both
|How do you know if writing a series is the best choice for your story?|
In each book, the reader discovers personal elements of the character(s). They may have work, family, and personal crises that help the reader like and appreciate the character(s). However, they are secondary to the actual event, although their personalities may influence events. The characters have a particular history or set of circumstances to retain the familiarity for readers although the external events change constantly. Readers keep coming back for more action.
A prime example is how the wildly successful television series Midsomer Murders retired Tom Barnaby and appointed his cousin John in his place. The series continues because events in a familiar setting define it more than actual characters.
Closely linked books in a series are usually more emotionally intense and have a finite story arc. Each book takes the reader closer to the conclusion. The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Harry Potter. One wonders if readers would be interested in Bella and Edward’s marital problems, or whether Harry Potter (now grown up) can cope with a job in the Muggles’ world, or if Katniss can live happily ever after with Peeta.
The skill demanded here is for the author to create an ending in each book that satisfies, while still keeping the reader hooked on the major story. The author must also avoid big, clunky info dumps about what happened before as each new book begins.
A combination of the two will suit sweeping epics, historical romance, or family sagas. A prime example is the Georgian historical romance, such as the Roxton series by Lucinda Brant. The first three books delve into the life and loves of heroine Antonia Roxton, while the fourth book brings secondary characters to the fore, to begin a whole new family drama.
Can a writer tell if the story has the potential for a series?The plot will evolve naturally if the characters are appealing, and if their personal growth and development hold the readers’ attention. Again, appealing characters are not worth anything if the action and conflict are not compelling. There has to be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.
Why do people love exciting series?A gifted author will be able to create characters readers can relate to and either love or hate. The readers get to know the characters well as the action evolves and, as each book comes out, can explore something new about their heroes.
Characters become friends to the avid readerThe reader shares in the hopes, dreams, and choices the character makes. Readers are amazingly loyal to their favorite characters, even though they may often disagree with the character’s choices. A good writer can explore these further, enabling readers to begin to make their own choices, especially in a moral dilemma or emotional conflict.
Sensible adviceThere are many good reasons why a first-time author should not start out with a series. The biggest pitfall is a writer’s inability to sustain an intriguing plot and compelling characters over several books. Perhaps writers should not set out to “create” a series deliberately, but rather let an original good story develop, allowing the characters and plot potential to determine the end result.
About the Author: Read more about South African children’s author Fiona Ingram and her middle grade adventure novel The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by visiting FionaIngram.com or secretofthesacredscarab.com. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur (Book Two) will be available in late 2012, and Fiona is working on The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper (Book Three). PS: Fiona did not set out to create a series…
Tell me your opinion: Will your book be part of a series?
Related Posts: Why Writers Should Take Their Own Advice
Generality Is the Death of the Novel
Keeping Track of Time
Story by K.M. Weiland