Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Writing A Series Is More Than Just Common Characters

I often get submissions from authors who tell me at the end of the query that "this story is part of a series." They go on to say that the other stories will talk about "the other brothers in the family" or something very similar to this. As an agent, it is always great to see that an author is thinking toward the future of their writing career. They are seeing a path to things beyond that single book they finished. Unfortunately, for too many of these authors, they are really missing the point of a series.

While there will be common characters or settings in a series, this is not what ties the stories together. Authors need to be thinking of an over-arching theme. That theme just happens to include common characters or settings.

When we are talking about themes, these need to go beyond simply "these are stories about life in a small town." Look, just because your stories are set in a small town does not mean this is the big take away for the readers. To understand this, let's examine some definitions.

I am working from information found on a great website on literary devices. Theme is defined as a main idea or an underlying meaning of a literary work that may be stated directly or indirectly."

This page goes on to also note a big difference between theme and subject, which is where far too many authors end up. "It is important not to confuse a theme of a literary work with its subject. Subject is a topic which acts as a foundation for a literary work while a theme is an opinion expressed on the subject. For example a writer may choose a subject of war for his story and the theme of a story may be [the] writer's personal opinion that war is a curse for humanity."

Should you decide to write a series, then take the time to really explore what that over-arching theme will be to tie the books together. Don't just fall into the trap of using the approach so many authors take "I just finished Stephen's story but his brother Dave really wanted to tell his story."

This concept is also a great way to understand the concept of series writing that you find at many publishers including Harlequin and Entangled. Each of the series these publishers have work around a common unifying theme. These are not simply common characters or plots, which far too many people seem to think. It is the message that ties it all together.

What you will also find is that keeping this theme in mind will also add a lot of depth to your stories. You now have a purpose and a message to build your story around, and not simply random characters. Your story now has meaning!

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you for this explanation. It is very helpful. Now, a question. If one wanted to submit several stories that have the same location or setting, or include several of the same characters, how does one go about describing what this group of stories is to an agent or publisher if they are not a series. Any advice will be appreciated!