Monday, June 16, 2014

Considering the Series

Series in which the author features a different hero and heroine in each volume are common in Christian fiction today. I hate to admit it, but, with the exception of a very few authors whose work I especially love, I generally don’t read the rest of the books in these series. If I’m really drawn into the first story, love the hero and heroine, and am satisfied by the conclusion of their story, I feel very little motivation to read a sequel that focuses on one of the secondary characters. Although a setting that readers are particularly drawn to can provide the motivation to continue with a series, I personally believe that switching heroes is a major reason why sequels often don’t sell as well as the first book even if the subsequent stories are well written and engaging.

From the time I was a teenager, I devoured novels, primarily classic literature. And very early on, what stood out to me in these stories was that my interest was the most highly engaged when the hero or heroine was “on stage”. I was conscious of a definite drop-off of energy and engagement when secondary characters commanded the stage and became impatient for the hero to return. The exception was when secondary characters’ actions or dialog directly related to the hero, but even then my interest never quite reached the intensity the main character engaged. For that very reason, when I began to think about turning Daughter of Liberty into a series, I made a conscious decision to feature Elizabeth Howard and Jonathan Carleton throughout rather than having secondary characters become primary in the sequels.

Unlike most series today, both series I’m writing—The American Patriot Series, set during the American Revolution; and the Northkill Amish Series, set during the French and Indian War—focus on the primary characters of book 1 from beginning to end. The scope of these particular series demands that treatment. However, I believe that following one hero and/or heroine throughout is the most powerful way to construct a series. It allows the author to develop a strong, overarching theme that builds through every volume, affecting readers on the deepest level and keeping them reading.

What’s your opinion about series? Do you agree with me or not? Why or why not? Please share some examples of series you’ve read that especially engaged you and how the author handled this issue.

7 comments:

  1. It is interesting that you ask this question now. I love Christian Historical Fiction and I am in the middle of your Patriot Series. When I started Native Son, I was excited to see that the main characters from Daughter of Liberty were still the main characters. I have read other series by other authors and I also enjoy reading about the main characters from one story who are not the main focus of the next story, but often interact with the new characters. The Thoenes do this well, building and adding characters whose families interact with one another in the series. I look forward to reading more of your books, including The French and Indian War series.

    By the way, I teach 4th grade Ohio History and use my family history of the Hochstetler Massacre to teach them about the French and Indian War.

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying my series! I agree with you that when done well both styles can be effective. It is admittedly personal too--some readers tend to prefer one way, while others prefer the opposite.

      We're obviously cousins! It's great to meet you! I'm delighted to hear that you're using our family history to teach about the French and Indian War. Personal accounts like this one draw students into a time period and get them excited about history. I personally believe that well-written and carefully researched historical fiction is a great way to teach history too since it allows students to live the events along with the characters. Thank you so much for stopping by and adding your perspective!

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  2. I agree with you and that is why I don't like to start a series until all the books are out. It is hard to be left hanging and have to wait for the next book to come out! Sometimes I have to reread a book before starting the next if it has been awhile. If the first book has a good ending and then I have to wait for the next book I may just not go on, like you said. It is probably a very good book but I have gone on to something else.Being left hanging would have a better chance at the rest of the series being read. Plus, if I like the main characters I don't like the book to end and very much want the next book to continue on with them.

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    1. Geeg,

      Thank you for stopping by! That's a real problem for us writers too, especially with historical fiction, which takes more time to write because of all the research involved. I sure understand readers' dilemma, but if our books don't sell because readers are waiting for all the volumes to be published, they never will be. Unfortunately sales are needed to finance the next books.

      I agree too that if a series is following one set of characters and a volume ends on a cliffhanger, I'm going to be watching for the next book to come out even if it takes a few years. lol! I really like it when a series follows characters I love and I get to know more about them, their time, and their lives.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your comments!

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    2. Yes, I have read all of the Patriot Series that are out. Love It!! Thank you for all your research that has gone into the series. It has paid off and I have learned much.

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  3. I like and read both.

    What I'm writing at the moment keeps ending up with multiple books following the same character. The first three books in A'yen's Legacy follow A'yen. #4 is a character introduced in #3, then 5 and 6 are once again following the same character. #7 will be a character introduced in #6.

    I'm also a romance reader, and there's only so much you can do in most romances with the same couple. Once they have their HEA I'm good with moving to the next person in line.

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    1. Rachel,

      Your series sounds very intriguing--a mixture of both styles. That should satisfy readers on both sides of the issue. One benefit of having a larger number books in a series is that it allows you to do more creative things.

      What I've done with this series is to provide enough obstacles--which wasn't hard!--to keep Jonathan and Elizabeth apart a good bit of the time, which ratchets up the tension in their relationship. Their story won't be resolved until the very end of the series. With the development and consummation of Andrews's and Blue Sky's relationship, I wanted to give readers enough of a romantic resolution to satisfy them for the time being, and there'll be more along that line in the upcoming books too. At least I hope that works. Plus with all the exciting action going on during the Revolution, it isn't hard to come up with storylines that keep readers on the edge of their seats. At least I hope it's working!

      Thanks so much for joining in the discussion! It's helpful for us as writers to get different perspectives on what draws readers into fiction series the most effectively.

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