Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Keeping it fresh by Jennifer Estep
First of all, I want to say thanks to the Yankee Romance Reviewers for asking me to blog. Thanks so much!
Since the third book in my Bigtime superhero series, Jinx, was released in September, I thought I’d talk about the ins and outs of writing a series. If you want to succeed as an author, you’re probably going to have to write a series at some point. Readers love them, and so do publishers.
As an author, I love writing series, either featuring the same main character or a group of connected characters, like in my Bigtime series. But it can be tricky to keep your mojo going over three or five or even ten books. It’s hard enough writing one great book, much less several that all take place in the same world.
Face it. We’ve all read series where the first few books were really, really great, but the longer the series went on, the more the books seemed to be the same. So here are some of my tips for keeping a series fresh:
1. Make your world big enough: Your story can take place in a small town, in a big city, in a fantasy country, or even on the moon. But you need to make sure your characters have plenty of places to explore, not only in the first book, but throughout the whole series. This could be anything from an ordinary restaurant to the local cemetery to a wizard’s keep to a colony of Martian invaders. Wherever your story is taking place, make it an interesting, multi-layered destination.
2. Explore your world: This goes along with #1. Sure, your characters may have a favorite bar or tavern they go to in every book, but that doesn’t mean they can’t venture out of their comfort zone. If your town is notorious for its creepy cemetery, than have your characters explore the creepy cemetery. Every time you write a new book, think of the new places you can send your characters to explore.
3. Don’t make your rules too strict: This one especially applies to series with fantasy, sci-fi, or other magical elements. Don’t make the rules for how your characters use their magic or plasma guns or whatever too limiting, or you’ll probably end up writing yourself into a corner at some point - and not being able to do something because your rules don’t allow it. Establish a few basic ground rules, and think and plan ahead about how your characters might use their magic in the future.
4. Don’t give everything away in the first book: If your character has a tortured past, don’t reveal all of it in the very first book. Instead, just reveal bits and pieces of information. I’m not saying you should cheat the reader. They need to know what happened to your character in her past, and there needs to be some resolution in each book, even if your plot threads continue over several books. But make the information and your character compelling enough so that it whets readers’ appetite to learn even more about her.
5. Have fun with it: This applies to whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a stand-alone book, a series, or even a short story. Because if you’re having fun with your world and characters, readers are more likely too as well.
What about you guys? Got some tips of your own to add? What do you like and loathe about book series? What are some of your favorite series? Share in the comments. At the end of the day one commenter will win a copy of Jinx!