So, I’ve been thinking a lot about ongoing book series. They’re very popular with readers, and seem to be the best way to keep a steady income into a writer’s pockets.
But, so far, in my writing life, I have yet to hit on that one world and cast of characters where I want to stick around longer than a trilogy. Each trilogy I’ve written has a definite arc to it and the main character(s) always reach an endpoint in their story. An ongoing series means dismissing how I usuallyregard character arcs and storylines.
After talking to a few writers, here is what I realized about long running series:
1. The main character has to be engaging, and have a personality that has enough quirks to keep the reader entertained book after book. They have to have a good mix of strengths and weaknesses. The character has to not change too much over time.
2. The supporting cast should be small, dynamic, and play particular roles in the life of the main character.
3. The primary location should remain unchanged, but the characters should be able to travel.
4. There shouldn’t be one primary storyline. The main character is the story. Each book should have a new challenge to overcome, new big bad, and new lesson to learn (this last point is iffy to some degree).
5. The world building needs to be rich enough to always hide new secrets.
6. The world needs to be dangerous, but not so dangerous that the cast of characters dies off.
That sixth point is the major reason I burned out on As The World Dies by the time I reached SIEGE. I got tired of losing characters, especially ones so dear to my heart. Also, I felt that the surviving characters and I had reached a nice stopping point. Things were wrapped up enough for closure, but still open enough to allow readers to imagine what happens next.
Looking over my other trilogies, again, I feel like the characters and stories all came to a solid end point. Big Bad is vanquished (or wins), characters have evolved (or died), and the battle is won (or lost).
I get a lot of requests for 4th books to my trilogies, and it’s immensely flattering. But I’m still facing the fact those stories are done. I turned the page in my head and reached THE END.
I’ll soon be working on Living Dead Boy 2, and the third Last Bastion book. Those two series both have final books. Definite THE ENDs.
After that, I’m not sure what I’ll be diving into next. I don’t have any ideas for a long ongoing series, but I’m keeping the above 6 points in mind as new ideas pop into my head.
How do you feel about ongoing series?