Friday, June 21, 2013

The Perks of Writing a Series

Why would a writer consider writing a series?

I've already blogged about what a series involves and how to keep track of the information involved in writing that series.  Now let's see why a series can be a plus for a writer.

Throughout the ages, series have been written, read, and reread.  Many of them have been written for children.  The most popular include Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, The Babysitters Club, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden.  Adult series include Sherlock Holmes, A Song of Fire and Ice, and too many in-between to list.  Everybody has their favorite. :)

What is a series?  According to, a series is a set of successive volumes or issues of a periodical published in like form with similarity of subject or purpose.


The "similarity of subject or purpose" can also be called "connections."  It only takes one book or idea to spawn more.  In that one book or idea, a writer has a variety of connections from which to create a series.  If you're looking for one, the following are a start.

Because series books already contain some type of connection, there's a huge chance you have a theme.  Whether it's family, a town/city/area, shared backgrounds, fighting the bad guys, weddings, saving a marriage, sheikhs, cowboys and ranchers, babies, good vs. evil, and more, there's a basic theme or thread that runs through all of books.

Most books don't involve only one, main character.  In fiction there are two: the protagonist and the antagonist.  In romance, there are also two:  the Hero and the heroine (H/h).  These second two may switch roles as protag and antag.  Whatever type of book you're writing, each of these two characters has:
  • Background - Friends or a acquaintances, occupation, hobbies/interests, training, school(s), life experiences, and more.
  • Family - Bothers, sisters, cousins, parents...
  • Conflict - What keeps them from getting whatever it is they want
  • City, small town, apartment complex, neighborhood, office, armed forces, jungle, desert, distant planet, the future, the past, alternate reality
  • Seasons or weather related.  For instance, three books could be three different stories about surviving the same natural disaster.


The role of a minor character can lead to the role of a major character (protag/antag) in the next book.  This could be a friend, relative, or any other character that appears or is mentioned (introduced) in the first book. The latter can be used especially for longer series that isn't necessarily based on a family.  At least that's what I discovered when 2 related books became an 8 book series.

Summary aka let me confuse you:  After the line I first published with closed, I sold a book to Harlequin American.  I needed more and wondered if anything I'd considered writing in the past would work for this new-to-me line that focused on Home and Family.  I had two stories that were interrelated by the two heroes being friends (1st connection-friends).  These were stories and characters I'd always liked and had hoped that some day they would be published.  They were originally set in two different areas, so to help tie them together a little more, I decided to move the second book to the same setting as the first.  Desperation, Oklahoma (2nd connection-town) was born.   The heroes were both rodeo cowboys (3rd connection-occupation), although they didn't compete in the same events.  One was a bronc rider, the other a bull rider.

So now I had two heroes, Hero1 and Hero2.  While working on those, I discovered some old notes on a story about Hero1's younger brother, who had run away and vanished when he was in high school.  Their father had died, their mother had deserted them, and little brother had picked up and left, early on.  My editor, however, wanted to see a story about the sister of Heroine2 (1st connection for bk3) .  Okay, that was doable.  Enter Heroine3.  Add Hero3, the town's sheriff, and there was the story's 2nd connection: the town.  I adjusted Book 2 to add in a mention of a secret relationship between what would become Hero3 and Heroine3, and decided not to go with the younger brother quite yet.  I had an idea.  Why had the mother of Hero1 deserted her husband and two sons?  Answer:  She was pregnant and too young to be the mother of three.  Of Native American heritage, she wanted to join the rodeo and did.  Aha!  A secret sister!  Heroine4 was created, the unknown sister of Hero1 (1st connection-family, and a new character).  Heroine4 knew who her brothers were and she arrived at her brother's ranch, looking for a job as a wrangler for Heroine1's boys' ranch.  (H/h1 were, by this time, married with a young son).  A revisit to the setting in the first book created the 2nd connection of both ranch & town.  Hero4 was the head wrangler, and of course the two butted heads.  And he was a new character.

Still with me?  Yes, it can be confusing. 

PIotting for future books, if there might be chance there might be some, I'd added a new female doctor to the town.  Hero5, Hero1's younger brother, (1st connection-family) arrived at the ranch in the epilogue of Book 4 (2nd connection-ranch & town).  Yes, his story was next.  Because of a debilitating injury, Hero5 was tended to by the female doctor (Heroine5).  As it turned out, the doctor had a brother, who had moved to town to become the city attorney a few years earlier and was introduced briefly in Book 5.  We're on to Book 6 with the brother (Hero6) of Heroine5.  Confused?  I am.  Heroine6 had appeared briefly in several of the books, so now she had her own story.  Several tries later, a new set of old characters never mentioned before, stepped forward for the telling of their stories.  Hero7 and Hero8 were brothers (1st connection-family), and another duo of old stories begun, but never told.  The location of their setting was moved within the state, so they could now friends with earlier heroes and heroines (2nd connection-town), they fit well in Desperation.  Heroine7 and Heroine8 were both new characters.

I'll be the first to admit that sometimes it took some thinking and brainstorming to keep the series going.  But I'll also admit that it was fun.  Books 1 and 2 led to books 3 and 4, which led to 5 and 6, and now 7 and 8-- with a bit of new, yet staying with the town, family and friends...and even occupations as ranchers, it worked.

Why did it work?


One of the things I enjoy reading the most in a series or connected stories is learning what's been going on with former main characters or simply seeing the mention of former minor characters.  Having those minor characters or even briefly introduced characters take on a major role is just as good, if not better.  That's also why I've enjoyed writing a series.  People grow, their families grow, and so should fictional characters, whenever possible.  Stephen King, even when not writing a "series," will mention a place or name from previous novels.  It always brings a smile to my face.


Readers Love Series

With the Desperation series (Hearts of Desperation, if you like), the connections are many.  Theme is much the same as Harlequin American Romance.  Home and Family.  Setting?  A small town.  Characters are connected in many ways, including friends, family, and occupations.  One grows out of the first and so on.  But first and foremost, I'm a reader.  I enjoy seeing "old friends" in a series, meeting new ones, and knowing that in a series I will have my favorites, whether reading OR writing.  That's the biggest perk of all.

As a writer, are you a reader?  Do you enjoy reading books in a series?  If you do, why aren't you writing one?  Yes, it takes work, and sometimes it might seem that there's nothing more to tell.  But in fiction, as in life, there's always more.  Give it a try.  The first book lays the groundwork, the second and subsequent books build the series.  Just remember to have fun!

I'll be a guest blogger at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs on Monday, June 24th.  I'll be delving into the setting of small towns, so stop in and say HI.  There may be some free books available for lucky visitors, too!
The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. – Elizabeth Hardwick

Hearts of Desperation Main Characters and their Connections 
THE RODEO RIDER, Book 1 - Tanner O'Brien and Jules Vandeveer
 BACHELOR DAD, Book 2 - Dusty McPherson (friend of Tanner) and Kate Clayborne
 THE LAWMAN'S LITTLE SURPRISE, Book 3 - Morgan Rule (town sheriff) and Trish Clayborne (Kate's sister)
 THE RELUCTANT WRANGLER, Book 4 - Mac MacGregor and Nikki Johannson (Tanner's sister)
 THE MAVERICK'S REWARD, Book 5 - Tucker O'Brien (Tanner's brother) and Paige Miles (new doctor in town)
 BACHELOR DAD, Book 6 - Garrett Miles (Paige's brother and city attorney) and Libby Carter (works in the  local tavern, where Kate Clayborne McPherson provides her famous barbecued beef sandwiches)
 A NANNY FOR THE COWBOY - Luke Walker (friend to many in and around Desperation) and Hayley Brooks
 DESIGNS ON THE COWBOY - Dylan Walker (Luke's brother) and Glory Andrews

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