The number of pitfalls when writing a novel become compounded when they’re a part of a series. It’s an ever-present danger while I work on The Kovenlore Chronicles, reinforced each time I read (or put down) a series.
The adage that goes something like, if you can’t find the book you want to read you should write it, was part of the reason I began writing in the first place. It ruled my worldbuilding and drafting from the beginning. When I committed to the series it became a rule I expanded.
I didn’t want a series where little happened. Where the story was stretched thin over however many books. Where the same tale (with minor changes) was told book after book. Where the character arcs were either flat or kept looping back on themselves. Where the series went on and on, its focus becoming lost.
Beyond all that, there were also personal choices to make. Key among them was actually a vow. With each book, I’d try my best to top the one that came before it, at least in some way.
My original inspiration was the epic fantasy of Tolkien, but women’s fiction and its emphasis on self-growth and relationships became a huge influence. That meant marrying the two, which resulted in otherworld historical fantasy.
More specifically, that meant magic and the fantastic paired with characters who possess distinctive arcs. Keeping the various elements of the series driving forward is an attitude that fits my personality.
Surprised? You might be if you met me.
I’m an introvert. To say I’m largely unassuming is an understatement. I’m also driven and determined. Read this blog enough and you’ll see my contradictions. I agonize over minor issues, then turn around and write +100K in a month. It’s why I shelved my world and writing in 2015 because it wasn’t good enough.
I’m meek, yet driven. Not make sense? Welcome to the INFJ personality type.
The moment that epitomizes my determined fragility occurred in 2005. My life was literally coming apart. I was desperate. I needed serious help, someone who was going to work with me and overcome the mountain of trials I was facing.
The search began.
One of those I consulted sat behind his desk and stared at me. He leaned back in his chair. Boredom ruled his features. Almost he yawned. “Let’s slow down and not get ahead of ourselves here.” It wasn’t exactly inspiring. A couple of more sessions were ruled by, “Let’s back up.”
Ever know with certainty that someone wasn’t listening to you? I knew that if I kept going to see him I’d be dead. I’m serious. It was like being shot five times and having a doctor say, “H’m, maybe we should run some tests before we treat you?”
I found Don. He was engaged. He was positive. He was insightful. He saved my life. It was simple in its complexity. He was committed to ME learning how to save myself.
That was me, too, facing down a series. I didn’t want static characters who ride a repeating plot. I wanted dynamic. I wanted that their backstory made them who they are in the first book, but that circumstances throughout the series influenced their arc.
Sound basic? Logical? It does to me, yet I run into the opposite so often that I too often quit series. I suspect some of the reason is because it’s difficult to keep the elements of story driving forward. Believe me, I know. I have to keep coming up with more, more, more.
Riparia Dellbane, for instance.
She’s an introvert, a dreamer, an idealist. Her childhood is about life inflicting harsh realities and well-meaning people manipulating her for their ends. At each turn, those who truly care are stolen from her. Stronger than she believes, she keeps finding ways to cope and survive, including retreating from the very people she is trying to help in her own small way.
That’s the place she’s at when the series opens. Then she must face the biggest challenges of her life. At her core, the idealist remains, much to her surprise, but she’s wearing down, a woman fighting to remain upright in the face of a gale wind. Her compassion and idealism are the strengths that keep her on her feet, but they’re also her greatest weaknesses.
Each success comes at a cost as more cracks appear and another piece of her soul is taken.
Important to all this was capping the series and looking at the bigger picture. That’s why, in the past, I’ve talked about each book as a segment of an overall arc. I’m currently at the midpoint of novel four of seven, which means I’m also at the series’ midpoint.
In each of the novels, the midpoint is more than just another mile marker along the road, it’s a significant event that alters the landscape in some way. That means, not only the plot, but also the characters. The series’ midpoint? Oh yes, big. A big change indeed.