The Rentable Writer

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Confused by a series? Join the club* (really).

These days, books come in series all the time. Even if it's not a series, there will be spin-offs with the same characters. The reason is because readers like to become attached to writeres, and writers like telling interesting stories. And interesting usually means long.

Currently, I'm working my way through the first of a series and, let me tell you, it can be hell. What I'm working on is almost an Americanized Harry Potter minus all the magic. Now, the plots are almost entirely different, but since I'm basing it at a school, of course someone's going to "make the connection" (though there isn't one; no writer can get away with anything anymore, because it seems every idea is in Harry Potter somewhere, and there's always an overzealous fan out there, ready to label you as a J.K. Rowling-wannabe. Love ya, Jo, but it's true. You've basically copyrighted heroes with glasses, and the word "wizard.")

So, the plot of my series is intricate (though not exactly tangled), and there is some planning that comes with writing a series. (Excuse me. Did I say some? I'm mean, a lot. A LOT if you want to foreshadow, which is always a great thing if given in small doses. Everyone knows the warm feeling of good foreshadowing.)

Anyway, I've basically gotten the whole story in my head and a lot of it in my notes, and I know where to tell most things to keep an element of mystery (always important to have some mystery!), but I've just hit one spot where I'm completely confused as to what to do. I don't know where to put certain details that are going to affect the story in later books, or if I should just cut the whole idea from the current novel and put it all in one. I'd rather have it span, but it just can get so confusing!

My point: If you're going to write a series, know what you're doing and be ready for a headache or ten every day until you get the first book published. And then there's the second.

NOTE: I wrote this post about five days ago, and saved it as a draft. I've solved my problem (I cut and changed that damn piece of information), but I thought this post might still be of interest to some blog nomads.

Oh, and the club I referred to in the title is the "I'm Writing a Series Club." Join it by commenting and something magical will happen ... as to what, I'm unsure right now ...


  • A series can be tricky, but can also be fantastic. The problem for me is, the characters grow in my mind and demand I do more with them. One book was planned to have two protags, but a third demanded to have their day in the sequel.

    By Blogger Sandra Ruttan, at June 19, 2006 2:06 PM  

  • I'm commenting. When may I expect my magic? LOL.

    Seriously, the problems you enumerated are very real and can be difficult to skirt around. It can be done; it's just going to take some extra ingenuity. The word "series" can be daunting, as well. I have book #1 in a series finished. I don't intend to write a word of a proposed #2 until I see what happens with this one. Of course, it would help if I could make myself crank up the heat under the querying process.

    By Blogger Serena Joy, at June 19, 2006 3:31 PM  

  • I think the thing I find most daunting is the idea that for a series to be most effective, your characters must grow and feel real. It takes some really good skill to make characters so believeable, that a reader might actually cry if they died. If I could do one thing in my writing, I would do that: I would make my readers really cry out of sadness. I'd want to write characters that make their face a minefield of expression ... the furrowed brow, the wry grin, the deep frown ... maybe even a gasp. Oh, I hope I have that skill ...

    By Blogger The Rentable Writer, at June 19, 2006 8:48 PM  

  • I agree. Real, believable characters are the backbone of any novel. You know this, so I don't think you'll have any problem creating them.

    Sandra, I hear you on the sequel thing. Someone who critiqued me suggested that I "kill off" one of my main characters, but I just can't do it -- 'til the sequel.

    By Blogger Serena Joy, at June 19, 2006 9:19 PM  

  • Before I write a character's emotions or reactions, I pause and say to myself, "How would I feel if I were him/her?" That's a good thing to do. It helps. I think another good thing is to not be afraid of writing realistic detail. For example, to show how angry my MC was, I had a cat he hates lick the blood from his dead father's face. I thought, Well, this is gross ... but if the reader doesn't get mad with MC, I'd be surprised. I'd definitely like to write some horror. I love dark, macabre writing sometimes ... though, not always. It's really been since I read Interview with the Vampire (READ IT!!!) that I became fascinated with the feelings that a writer can instill in his/her readers through presentation of realistic detail.

    By Blogger The Rentable Writer, at June 19, 2006 9:28 PM  

  • You do. You have to be able to feel what your character's feeling, really get into his/her head. More than that, you have to love your characters. If you don't, they're not going to do what you need them to do for you.

    By Blogger Serena Joy, at June 19, 2006 9:46 PM  

  • Woot! I'm writing a series! Can I join the club?

    I tried to use magic yesterday to make some coffee because I was too tired to get to the pot, but my wand broke and I got slugs instead.

    Nodding in agreement about the characters being the integral element of a series. It's all about them. Just ask 'em. :-)

    By Blogger S. W. Vaughn, at June 20, 2006 6:10 AM  

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