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The Art of the Series…

By Allie Pleiter

Series are the big thing in fiction these days. Readers love them, publishers want them. It seems as if Netflix has taught us all how to binge-watch, so if we weren’t ready to binge-read before, we are now.

As a writer, I like series because building a world and cast of characters is hard work, and it’s nice to spend some time in a community once you’ve crafted it.
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I’ve done two location-based series; my first Kentucky Corners series walked readers down a small town main street, introducing them to the shops and business-owners along the way while my most recent Gordon Falls series centered around an Illinois volunteer fire department. Both were useful vehicles to tie a selection of five books together with a common setting and shared cast of characters.

My current series The Blue Thorn Ranch, utilizes one of the more tried-and-true series vehicles, a family. There’s still a locale element–the Buckton family’s Blue Thorn Ranch–but the true connecting threads are the four grandchildren of Adele Buckton. Okay, there’s a cousin thrown in there for good measure, but every family has an upstart, right? I’m having fun with the fact that each Buckton family member has extraordinary turquoise-blue eyes–a family with a signature color makes for a bit of amusement.

One of the biggest challenges of a family series is timeline. It gets rather tricky keeping track of who is how old when, etc., because there is so much shared deep backstory. The Buckton family forced me to lay out a detailed family arc in advance of proposing the series, and then to utilize Aeon Timeline software to keep track of both the full family history and the plots of each of the five books.

Book one, covering the eldest son Gunner Jr. released in February, and book two about his younger sister Ellie released this month. I’ve already written book three about their cousin Witt Buckton. I’m in the throws of the manuscript for Luke–the younger brother who has a twin sister Tess–and Tess gets her book as the series wrap up. Each of these characters also need to make cameo appearances in subsequent novels, so again, timelines are key. The baby who appears in book two had better be the appropriate age when he shows up in book five.

Given today’s market, series structure is a useful skill to acquire. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of creating a world, why not ensure you spend some time there!

What have been your favorite series?

Allie Pleiter June 2014Award-winning author Allie Pleiter recently celebrated her millionth book sold. An avid knitter, Allie spends her days writing books, buying yarn, and avoiding housework. Her career spans three non-fiction books, over two dozen novels, and national speaking engagements. Visit www.alliepleiter.com.

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