I’m in the process of developing a series (maybe two), which has prompted me to ask the question, what works and what does not, in a book series. Since its series theme week here at Darker Temptations, I’m sharing the thoughts I’ve been tossing around on the issue.
I love a good series. When done well, they reel me in, because I get so invested in the world and the characters in it, that I can survive a bad book or story and am willing to forgive a transgression or two or three (I will give up eventually) but may come back years later. Here are the things I identified that work for me.
Characters who own your heart (but their stories must deliver)
Take some of the most popular. J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood. By the end of the first book, Wrath and Beth’s story, I was in love with all the brothers, wanting for them to finally find their happy ending. So I read, a lot of them, and enjoyed some of them. But I found the world to be only so, so. When Phury’s story disappointed, it was almost over for me. Phury had my heart breaking in half through so many books with his unrequited love for his twin’s love that sometimes I read many of the books for him alone. When he was matched with Cormia who I found to be pretty bland, like his story, I drifted away. I may go back, but with the series, it was the people, more than the world.
A World that Draws You in
My absolute favorite series, also one of the more popular, is Nalini Singh’s Psy/changeling world. I just love the universe she’s built, the interplay between the various changeling packs, the changelings and the Psy, and the humans who are slowly being integrated it all. Each grouping is a world within a world, with its own well-crafted rules and relationships. Not all the stories worked for me, but the world she created keeps drawing me back and there are still a lot of characters I want to see matched up with their HEA. Vasic, Aiden, and Alice anyone? I’m hooked and I’ll stick with it to the end.
Original, Creative Plots in Each Story that Move the Whole Series Forward
Another thing to watch out for that does not work for me is the reusing of story lines across a series. Lora Leigh’s breed series hooked me into paranormal erotic romance so I naturally turned to her Elite Ops to check it out. Each book had more or less the same plot as the one before. I read three and stopped. I’m also not a really big fan of her female characters either but that’s another post.
Closure (within a reasonable period of time)
And finally, and this may be my issue, but the series has to come to an ending with full closure. Harry Potter and a series organized to end in seven years and seven installments is public relations brilliance and reader heaven for me. I stopped reading the Breeds (although I will read Cassie’s story when it comes out) and never made it past the first book in Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series because there were already 20+ waiting afterwards and they were still coming. I need a series to conclude. And a planned ending is all the better, because it makes each book all the sweeter.
What about you all. What works and does not work for you in a series?
Sabrina Garie is on a journey to create the most kick-ass heroine in romance fiction. Meet Jocelyn, a single mom who gets a second chance at love in her newest book Next Move available from Ellora’s Cave and Amazon
I love Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series.
The first book in the series is “Slave to Sensations” and it’s also the first time we meet Hawke Snow, the wolf alpha. He is a secondary character, but you can practically feel the darkness surrounding him. He’s been through hell and he will do anything to keep his pack safe. In one of the key scenes in the first book he makes it very clear he wants no help with his emotional trauma, that he has to carry the burden of what he’s been through. Throughout the series you catch glimpses of him, get an idea of the choices he had to make.
And you meet Sierra, the young Psy who challenges him at every turn, who throws his plans into disarray and disturbs his peace of mind.
From the first time he set foot on the scene I wanted to know his story, needed to find out why this cloud of darkness encircled him. It took another eight books before “Kiss of Snow” came out (and let me tell you the wait was hell, even if Nalini produced more amazing books;), but it made sense as Sierra is only 16 when we first meet her. She needed to grow up a little.
“Kiss of Snow” beat my expectations! I was so worried because I anticipated Hawke’s and Sierra’s story so much, but Nalini did a fantastic job with the story.
It gives us insight into Hawke and more, it explained his back story, why the darkness and why his hesitation to open himself up to Sierra. The adversarial relationship between the pack and the Psy is coming to a head and Hawke and Sierra face huge obstacles and difficult decisions. Both of them have been shaped through their back story and the development you can see in all the other books comes together, making Hawke and Sierra real and relatable.
The book is fantastic and my favourite in the series…so far;). It just shows you Hawke’s growth from when we first meet him to three years later when he is in a position to take something for himself.
If you haven’t read any of Nalini Singh’s books you have to try them. They are AWESOME!
And all her heroes have a touch of the dark side…