Friday, January 19, 2018

On Writing a Series


As a reader I often find myself reading a series and can't wait to find out where the character's journey will move to next. How will the author end the story, because stories really never "end"?

I didn't realize that "Feisty Family Values" was the beginning of a series when I first wrote it. But the characters wouldn't stop coming to me in dreams and even during waking hours scenes would pop into my head. I wonder, is this what Nora Roberts experiences when she writes a book? To me, she is the quintesential series writer. The characters come in threes, they are different enough that you want to follow their stories, and continuing to follow a story line - it grows on you. Look at J.D. Robb and the "Death" series - I haven't a clue how many there are, but I've read them all.

I've written two novels is the feisty family series, "Patchwork Family" was the second. While I planned and started a third, I wasn't sure where it was going and if I could find an interesting path for the characters to follow. It's been percolating for awhile now, and several reader buddies have asked me - "When will the next book be out?" Nice to hear there is a demand, but feeling the pressure to find a new and interesting twist to the story is challenging.

Where I thought the story would go (the younger characters are reaching adulthood now) doesn't appear to be the path feisty #3 wants to progress. Life isn't always "happily ever after" but I really prefer my stories to at least have a satisfying ending with possibilities and opportunities to look forward to. Incorporating them into a story is fun, but challenging, especially when a character may be ill and die. Families and life are messy, am I right? And life goes on, regardless of the turmoil. Story goes on as well. (good reminders)

I found myself having to re-read my first two feisty family novels because some of the "details" were muddy in my memory. Did Peg have gray eyes like her mother or brown like her father? Was the kitten a girl or a boy? Was coach bald or did he have a shock of white hair? And don't forget that Tom had a chipped front tooth! This is the stuff you don't want to trip you up when writing a series because the reader will remember and if you get it wrong you've thrown them out of the story.

The main characters in the series are alive and burned in your memory, but the secondary characters may not be there yet - especially if your memory isn't as sharp as it used to be. (Mine is not.)

When a reader picks up a book it may or may not be the first book in the series, so don't forget to give them some hints as to what has gone before. Just a few highlights will do. I notoriously pick up second books and can't wait to go back and read book one, so I know more. That makes the third book even more exciting becuase the characters have come so far! (hopefully)

Another one of my favorite series is "Outlander" by Diana Gabladon. The stories literally never ends. I think there are eight or nine books now and the last one is just as fascinating as the first. The key - compelling characters in intriguing situations and everylasting love.  History plays a huge part in her stories, too, and that makes it interesting and real.

Okay. So let's recap, when writing a series:
1. Don't forget to give readers a tiny bit of backstory when writing the next book - but not too much.
2. Don't forget the details of the first book, refresh yourself - keep a log or character sketch handy.
3. Keep the story compelling and the characters interesting and show progression with each novel.
4. When you end a series, make it satisfying with open issues resolved. Don't leave your readers wondering what happened to... (makes them mad) Unless, of course, your series goes on forever.

Have fun, fellow authors and enjoy the ride.

Facebook: Bonnie D Tharp Books
Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Bonnie

I tried to leave a comment yesterday but it disappeared and so I'll try again today. Your advice on creating a series is excellent. Of course it's much easier to write stand alones, but there is a lot of satisfaction in creating characters that have depth and lives that develop much like real people.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Hi Jacqui,
Had some computer trouble myself. Thanks for the comment.
All the Best,