When a character, a setting or a storyline really works, it’s publishing gold. When it works over the course of several books — books that readers are eager to snatch up before they’ve even hit the presses — it’s publishing platinum.
Book series have always been the Holy Grail for authors and publishers, a phenomenon that’s only grown in recent years. Readers who’ve become attached to your title characters want more of those characters they’ve come to love. It’s far less of a leap of faith to commit to buying a second book that’s stacked with all the things they appreciated about the first book.
But how do you develop a setting, a protagonist and multiple stories that can sustain readers’ interest from one book to the next? Keep a few things in mind in the development process to keep those ideas “evergreen” and compelling through two, three or more books.
- Write what you know. When you’re writing about characters with whom you have things in common, and events you can relate to, you and your characters grow together. It becomes much more natural for you to create content that is compelling on a personal level for you as a writer, and for readers.
- Let the characters and story evolve. Characters remain most interesting when we are able to “grow up” with them in some way. This doesn’t mean your young characters need to get gray hairs or your senior-citizen protagonist is destined to die of old age — although many readers may connect with characters who undergo similar changes in life — but personal evolution is compelling. Let the hero learn and grow and adapt like we all do.
- Build-in an environment that create drama. Characters who live in a world that’s conducive to adventure and drama will always find adventure and drama, and it will come to them (and you) naturally. For example, Harry Potter couldn’t get into nearly as much danger without supernatural surroundings, in a traditional English school. And Bella Swan’s life wouldn’t be so interesting if she weren’t surrounded by vampires and werewolves. Setting matters.
- Shake it up. So your hero’s a beat cop in your first two books. Perhaps he gets a promotion and launches into homicide investigation in the third. A well-placed curveball keeps your characters compelling and moving toward greater or different chapters.
Plotting an entire series of books may not be realistic, but it may be helpful to think about some of the potential directions your character and story can take as you’re planning your first novel. From there, the possibilities are endless!