by Gail Gaymer Martin
I’ve enjoyed writing novels in a series, because the advantage is: 1) each story creates fodder to build the next novel and 2) editors like to contract a series because they interest readers. A series demands an author to keep good records of details woven through the novels, especially with a large cast of characters. I wrote a seven book series based on people in a town. A secondary character became the focal characters in the next book. Seven is far too many while keeping track of who worked where, who knew who, careers, cars, birthdays and how old a child would be in book five when he was born in book two. Details became a nightmare. Three or four in a series in enough. I’ve learned to create a worksheet or spreadsheet that will help you store and easily find this information.
What connections are common in most series?
• a single character who is s major individual through all stories.
• a cast of characters with a realistic connection
• a location or setting
• the focal theme or message found in all the novels
My last few series were: 1) Michigan Islands 2) Man’s Best Friend, stories about dogs and a dog shelter, 3) Dreams Come True, single parents with seriously ill children, and my present, Sisters, about sisters and sisterly love. The two final in the series will be in stores January and April.
A single character demands a strong personality who can keep readers coming back. Provide characters who tempt readers to follow: a detective or woman running a boarding house. Though novels require growth of a main character, in a single main character series, growth is slower so as not to disappoint readers from the next book who’ve grown to love the individual.
Cast of Characters
Many series novels have a cast of characters, such as family sagas. Often one character becomes the focal person in a book and become a secondary character after. Save the most dynamic or unique character for the last book in the series. This keeps readers interest. A tip is make the next main character significant in the book that proceeds it. This allows you to foreshadow events happening in the characters own story.
Setting or Location
Novels, such as my Loving series, connects with the setting. A boarding house, village or town, apartment building, fantasy kingdom, business, or planet in outer space will work. The setting provides a link but also can create conflicts and tension.
Though theme usually reflects the major message of the novel: forgiveness, finding love, or good vs. evil, it can be an event or an object such as a painting or art piece, necklace, or map that affects the life of the owner magical, wonderful or devastating). This item could be handed down by family or purchased in an antique or second-hand store. While each story can stand on its own, the item or theme opens doors to a variety of plots.
Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin writes romance, romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is the author of Writers Digest’s Writing the Christian Romance and has 52 novels published with over 3-1/2 million books in print. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker and teaches writing across the U.S. If you enjoy a novel series, look for The Firefighter’s New Family, in most stores that sell books in mid-December.