The Power Of A Series

The Power Of A Series

Writers Write creates and shares resources for writers. In this post, we look at writing more than one book – and the power of a series.

The other day, I suggested a new writer develop a fiction series around a character he’d created. The poor guy almost blanched—perhaps because he had dismissed a series as too low-brow or didn’t relish the idea of spending the next 20 years writing about the same character.

The Power Of A Series

The truth is that series can consistently build your reputation and your royalties.

Three Types Of Series

  1. Multiple Series: This could be anything from Chris Ryan’s Alpha Force series to George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Ian Fleming’s James Bond franchise is a classic example.
  2. Trilogy: This format is becoming increasingly popular, such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, which started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as E.L. James’s erotic threesome starting with 50 Shades of Grey. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a perfect model.
  3. Quartet: A less common series structure, but is seen in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, which featured Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, as well as Lawrence Durrell’s enduringly commercially and critically successful The Alexandria Quartet.

The Backdrop

Although most series focus on a character or set of characters, a series can also revolve around a historical backdrop, such as Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series, which began with The Last Kingdom, or even a place, such as Loren D. Estleman’s Detroit series. A family can be a great way to thread a series, such as Roberts’ Bannion Family Series, or the Santangelo novels from Jackie Collins.

To be a series writer requires you to be focused, disciplined, and prolific. Publishers and millions of staunch fans will require one or more instalment a year.

Change Or Consistency

Some series have a definite arc in terms of plot and character, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of seven books. Others have characters that remain fairly consistent, like Hercule Poirot in the iconic Agatha Christie parlour mysteries.

Another thing you will have to decide before starting a series is if the series will continue chronologically and fairly realistically – with characters ageing and keeping up with the time. Or if you keep them in a looped reality, where nothing changes except the challenges of the plot.

Four Tips For Writing A Series

  1. Make sure your character is strong enough to carry a series – and that you enjoy writing about this character.
  2. Start keeping a series bible, of characters and major plot points, from day on.
  3. Outline the series arc before you start writing – winging it will get you into trouble.
  4. Give the overall series a clear identity —and make sure you don’t change the tone, genre or central voice of the stories too much.

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

If you enjoyed this post, read:
  1. Getting Started – Seven Tips from Famous Writers
  2. The Locked Room – A simple way to test your plot
  3. Stamp out that cliché – How clichés and jargon can ruin your writing
  4. Cut to the chase – Three ways to get your short story started
  5. The Sympathy Vote
  6. The Seasons – how to use them in your writing
Posted on: 3rd April 2014

0 thoughts on “The Power Of A Series”

  1. From Anthony Ehlers, in response to a query about the series arc:

    ‘In a nutshell, an arc is the progression the character will follow through the series. For example, in Twilight (book one), Bella is an awkward displaced teenager who realises the boy she crushes on in a vampire. In Breaking Dawn (last book, book four), she is married to the vampire, a mother and she a fearless leader and warrior of a vampire army. Who she was at the start of the series and who she is at the end of the series is radically different. This is the arc, her journey.
    Similarly, Harry Potter starts out as an orphan just getting to know his wizard ancestry. By the last book, he is one of the most powerful wizards, surrounded by his stalwart friends. That’s his arc.
    This best advice is to read as many series and see how and why the characters change. I hope that helps.’

  2. I understand story arc, continuing voice, etc but how do you know when you have a compelling central character that can drive a series. What elements, driving forces, does that character need to have? Are they always the same going through an upward progression like from young and meek to grown and powerful? Or can they have other elements of personality that change over time that will still be compelling?

  3. Interesting questions, E.P. And I’m wondering if what I am working on could be considered a series. The geography is the same, the historical era is the same but the characters do change. Perhaps it is more like the cast and stage are there but with each act (or book, in this case) they take turns coming to the front as main characters. I don’t know what to call that structure.