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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Challenges of writing a series

If you're writing suspense, chances are you've got a series in mind. I recently started book two of my cozy mystery series and have found it to be quite a challenge. My publisher wants a thread of romance in the plot, so while each book in the series will have its own stand alone mystery, the romance thread in my series arcs across all three books. Motivations, emotions, and conflict all must work together to make the romance believable while not overshadowing the mystery.

Authors can handle series a number of different ways. Books can have a common thread while still being stand along books, or they can be intricately tied together where you can’t read the second book before reading the first book. So how does one plot a series that won’t bore the reader with repeated details or confuse the reader with lack of details? Here are some ideas I came up with.

1. Don’t assume that your reader has read the first book in your series when he picks up number two.
2. Introduce your main characters in detail
3. Add some reminders with enough details that someone who didn’t read the first book can still understand what is happening.
4. Each story in the series needs to have a resolution. In the case of a romance that won’t be resolved until the last book of the series, each book needs to act as a step toward the final ending.
5. Include threads that continue through the series.
6. Keep good notes as you write the series including descriptions of characters, setting, habits, etc. More than likely you will have to use them.

How about you? What are things that you like or dislike about series that we can in turn learn from and incorporate into our stories? We'd love to hear from you!

And don't forget to check out our contest page. There's a new contest up this month. Leave a post for a chance to win Mindy Starns Clark's book, Blind Dates are Murder and a chance to win a free chapter critique!


Anonymous Ron Estrada said...

It's important to me that the main plot come to a satisfactory conclusion within each novel. A subplot, however, can and should, span several installments. A romance is a classic method of doing this. Some readers will return just to see what's happening with your character's lives.

DO NOT do what Traci Peterson did with her Alaska series. She broke off book one before the main plot concluded. My wife swore her off forever after that. Left Behind got away with that, but it's a rare exception. Jenkins and LaHaye established that understanding, at least implicitly, early in the first book.

11:22 AM  
Blogger AL DiGriz said...

It seems to me that another challenge is writing a series, especially an essentially episodic series, is character development. In a standalone novel or a serialized story, characters start off with a major flaw or three, and by the end of the story they have grown and changed. However, if you return to a character again and again, how can s/he grow and change in each novel? If we look at some successful series, such as the Reacher series by Lee Child or the John Rebus series by Ian Rankin, I don't see the main characters fundamentally changing from book to book. Yet, everybody always screams about character development. Any thoughts on this contradiction?

2:29 PM  

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