August 31, 2008

WRITING ADVICE: Reflections on Writing a Series

It seems, friends, that Series Sell!

And why not? I enjoy series books. I like the security of going back to the same place, seeing the same people and experiencing a comfortable, comforting read with few real surprises.

Most people can spout off any number of series they’ve enjoyed: DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN (McCaffrey), CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (Lewis), HARRY POTTER (Rowling), MITFORD (Karon), THE UPLIFT UNIVERSE (Brin), SPECIES IMPERATIVE (Czerneda), ATEVI books (Cherryh), MILES VORKOSIGAN (McMasters Bujold)…I could go on.

But how can I write a series? Luc Reid, an online friend of mine, has this to say about series: “…both in terms of pleasing readers and pleasing a potential publisher--doing both things: leaving enough open at the end of the story that there's plenty of room for a sequel, but providing a full and satisfying resolution to immediate events. For instance, in The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman ends the main character's quest to save her friend and resolves major questions, bringing her to climactic scenes with several characters and resolving major subplots, but also ends with a new and surprising turn that doesn't provide any specific plotline but definitely whets the appetite and tweaks the curiosity.”

I will be embarking on a series of YA novels that take place on an asteroid-sized spacecraft exploring the Solar System. While that may be interesting, I also needed a storyline to carry the series. The storyline has to be the “arch” from which the other stories depend (NOTE THE "EXAMPLE" ABOVE!)

For example, in C. S. Lewis’ CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, the “arch” from which the other stories depend is Aslan’s salvation plan for Narnia. In the ATEVI series of C.J. Cherryh, the “arch” from which the novels depend is Humanity’s minority integration into a majority alien society. So the “arch” from which the novels of HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES depend will be the discovery and defeat of an alien intelligence older than Humanity. Every novel in the series will have characters and problems that become more complicated and are finally resolved, but there will also be characters and problems that will NOT be resolved until the last book.

I think that this is what makes an enduring, attractive and ultimately satisfying series. I hope HEIRS OF THE SHATTERED SPHERES draws others the way the VORKOSIGAN SAGA has drawn me!

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