Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Serial Writing

Musical influence: “Rise” Parabelle (Your Starry Eyes Will Never Make Us Even, 2012)
Whatever makes you rise up in tragedy, take this useless heart and watch me survive. Right in front of you and it breaks my heart to watch you survive without it.”


When I decided to write an alternate universe urban fantasy, I knew it would be a lot of work. I knew I'd have to take notes and be organized and keep a log list of characters and make up family trees. I'd have to map out the realms and characterize the beings. Descriptions would need forming. Worlds built up. What I didn't realize was I'd write the entire first story in third person and realize I wanted it in first person. Or that, I'd realize I wanted to write two series coinciding, both mother and daughter's stories happening simultaneously in different realms.

Or the daughter is already “older” in her first book than her own mother by the time the mother's third book is written.

Why as a writer must I make things more complicated for myself?

I'm a fan of series stories. I like growing with the characters. I like the relationships and the plot ARCs and growth. I like seeing the characters as the writer sees them after the first story is done and the next one is growing. I think this is a big reason I love fan fiction. Not only do I love reading the stories the author comes up with their canon characters. I love to read what the readers come up with for these characters too. Our experiences and differences in life give each of us an unique view on life and on the characters we read in stories. For me, a well written fan fiction about a series I love is like reading an extension of the actual story. It gives me something to think about while I wait for the author to give me the real story and the direction author wants the pieces and characters to move. This inspires me to think in different directions as a writer myself. I don't want to read the same thing over and over again (unless it's Ranger and Steph getting it on because they deserve some after 19 books).

I like difference in characters. Differences in worlds. Realms to inhabit. I like short stories of the secondary characters and their lives outside of the main characters life. All the different influences on the characters in the author's world and the new influences and nuances fan fiction authors can think to add.

Do you like series stories? Those stories where the author writes the whole family falling in love? Or where the author writes about a team of people individually giving them all HFN/HEA? What's your biggest grip about series stories? And would you consider reading a series story like what I'm going to attempt- where the stories overlap one another in a A/U setting?

PS. P.Kirby, you're killing me slowly! I've tried to find you on ff.net and have failed. Please PM me. My username is cltaylor. I would LOVE to read your writing.

29 comments:

Maureen said...

I enjoy series...on TV, movies, reading, writing... Alt POV and overlapping histories are complicated. I've seen it done well, I've seen it suck. I do think the trick is to stay authentic to the spine of the story as you present alternates.

Count on you to give yourself one hell of a challenge!

As for what I like in a series when it comes to characters? I like the continuing couple in adventure after adventure, but I'm funny that way. I also dig the connected characters getting their own stories...

Gee, I'm a lotta help, ain't I?

Marnee Bailey said...

I really like series too. My biggest gripe with series, though, if feeling there isn't enough closure at the end of a book. If it feels like the author just chose random places to break the books, like they took a LONG story and cut it in 3s or 4s or 5s, then that's annoying to me. I think as long as there's at least some closure, maybe a little bit of a happy, reaffirming thing at the end of a book, then I'm fine to keep going and see what happens.

I've been reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood for years (though I doubt I'll buy her hardbacks any more. I just haven't felt like her books have been worth twice as much recently). And I think I might try Karen Marie Moning's Fever series after I'm done with this rough draft. Oh, and Tiffany Reisz's The Siren is a series, The Original Sinners. Have I mentioned how much I liked that?

Oh, I have? Oh, ok.

MsHellion said...

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Biggest gripe: LACK of growth in the character arc (ala Stephanie Plum). I'm all for madcap adventure, but if the character doesn't grow, I just get pissed off and start throwing books. Someone better freaking LEARN something--I have little tolerance for stupid people, even fictional ones.

Other biggest gripe, where you have a series of unrelated people having their HEA/HFN endings but the writer seems to have lost the overarc of the series...and so the world building and overall story has been lost or keeps repeating itself. Though I may love a world, I don't like it when the story situations become so alike I can't keep any of the stories straight. Sometimes I think series can be too long.

And yes, I'd read what you described--I'm laughing at you, but if you pull it off, I'll read it. It sounds a little like something a YA novel would do. YA novels get away with a lot of this--and they do a great job doing it. Go for it!

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Oh yes, I love the series books. The Malory family is a fav. Adore being able to see each family member find love and what it takes to get there.

Gripes I have - when the author spends too much time keeping us updated on the past couples to give us enough story and info on the current couple supposedly featured in the story.

On the other hand, I don't want them to completely disappear off the face of the earth.

I have seen serial stories done with overlapping times very well. And I really enjoyed them. It can be tricky as readers will look for signs and tell-tale snippets of each of the other stories in each book. But when they happen, is when something magical is happening with the writing and world.

For instance, when in one book the heroine watches as her brother flees a room and wonders where he's going, but in the brother's book we get the same scene from his point of view and find out where he's going. LOVE THAT!

Jill Shalvis said...

I'm a series 'ho. Books, tv, movies ...

Janga said...

I'm a series addict and always have been. I grew up reading series by Alcott, Montgomery, Lovelace, and Wilder. My addiction has a long history.

I was working on an H&H post last night and realized that in the past two years I have read or reread fifty small-town series (Jill's included). And that's not even counting most of the historical romance series I read. Most of my favorite series are centered around families or a group of friends. I like books that are rich in context, and, as a rule, I find series most satisfying.

I agree with Hellie that some series run too long. But Robyn Carr's on #20 in the Virgin River series, and she's still creating interesting characters that offer readers something new. There are mystery series (Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott books, Julia Spencer Fleming's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series, and Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity tales, to name a few) that I keep reading because the characters are dynamic with credible growth.

Jo Beverley's Rogue (Regency) and Malloren (Georgian) series have been going on forever. But she refers to them as "worlds," and characters from earlier books appear only if they are needed in the story. I really like that.

TerriOsburn said...

It's one those days at the day job so this has to be a fly-by comment. I love series! Though I'm finding writing one is harder than expected. I need to take better notes!

You can do anything you set your mind to, Sin. I have no doubts. :)

Sin said...

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get over here this morning. Work is impossible. Somehow I need to find my way into the glamorous life and sit by the pool all day while the pool boy fans me with a giant leaf and rubs sunscreen on my paper white skin.

Sin said...

Chanceroo, we share the same brain wave when it comes to series. I love everything about series. Especially connected character stories. And the continuing couple together in future stories working together, having adventures together, life together. Rarely do you get the chance to see that.

Sin said...

Marn, the BDB series irks me. I used to love it but then it just seemed so underdone. And the book was never really about the couple intended, it was about everything else going on around them. I gave up after Rehv's book. I only made it that far because there is something about a man with a mohawk and so badass that I couldn't resist. But I was disappointed with that story too.

What really did it for me was V's book. V was so badass in the previous books and so watered down in his own.

Also annoyed with the long stories cut into several books. Though, I'm afraid that's what Cin and Rylah's books are going to feel like. Epic stories cut into several books.

Sin said...

Hells, there must be character growth. Otherwise I'm just overly annoyed with the whole book. I've pretty much given up on the canon JE world. No growth, no development, nada for years now. That's why the fandom interest me so much. There is growth, plot, development. I want JE to remember why she loved writing the series, not the watered down version that just keeps bringing money in. I haven't bought a JE book since 2007. That's really sad for me.

I haven't bought a Laurell K. Hamilton one either in at least that long. Gave up on JR Ward in 2009 (I think). No Lisa Kleypas. No Victoria Alexander. The only person I've faithfully stayed true to because of her writing and growth of characters has been Kim Harrison. And Jill. And this is a case of two different types of series I like to read. Jill's books are all in the same series but about different characters (which I love) and Kim's are about the same first person narrator but a different situation with an overall ARC throughout the series. This is what I love about series. You can have a series but not everyone series is the same ground rules.

There is no way to make Cin and Rylah's stories YA. Too violent. And I decided that I'm going to roll with Cin and Uri's relationship wherever that might take me. So I might actually end up writing sex. (Heaven forbid I have to pull out my mediocre smut writing skills.)

MsHellion said...

I don't know. Have you read some YA novels lately? Violence is not typically an issue. But in fairness I haven't read your version of violence. You might be TOR all the way. :)

Sin said...

I haven't been reading much of anything lately. It's either read or write and I've been in the writing zone. Handwriting. Typing. Note taking. I'm about to cash out another notebook.

But I've noticed the YA books I have read aren't really selective on the language either (because we all know I love to use swear words) and the sexy time is usually pretty heavy. Way different from the YA books of my youth. If I wanted those sorts of things from books I had to move up to romance novels. Which is why I grabbed the historical and hid it inside my other books.

Sin said...

Scapey, it's the fine line between knowing and not knowing. I feel the same way. I love to know about past couples but I don't want that relationship to overlap or overthrow the new story. As a writer, it's hard to give up the characters you're comfortable writing and when you have them on page again and feel so euphoric to write them again, it's easy to lose yourself and your story. (I think.)

For instance, when in one book the heroine watches as her brother flees a room and wonders where he's going, but in the brother's book we get the same scene from his point of view and find out where he's going.

Love this example!

MsHellion said...

I thought the Hunger Games series was on the violent side, but I think the author was also skilled at making everything more horrific by what wasn't shared too. I think writing violence probably has a sort of balance to make it truly horrific. *shrugs* But I'm not a violence writer; and I admit I haven't read much in the adult world on the more violent side (except for Laurell K Hamilton novels--which if that's not horrific in its detail, I don't know what is.) So if your story is a bit more like LKH in scope of horror, violence, and sex, surrreeee, I'd say stick with that scope.

But Hunger Games and Smoke and Bone had some complicated story lines and pushed the edge of violence and gore for me. Sex is more implied--and if you'd rather not write sex...

Sin said...

Janga, I think as long as you can still keep it fresh even in book 20, there would be no reason to stop a series. You've built the world up, no reason why you shouldn't maximum your initial effort.

Sin said...

Thank you Ter! I just hope the challenge I've set forth for myself is something I can actually do and do justice. Otherwise, I'm going to be really disappointed in myself.

Sin said...

It's not that I dislike writing sex. I dislike writing sex when I feel like it's expected from me. Feels like a performance instead of a progression. If that makes any sense. I've shied away from writing sex lately simply because none of the characters I'm writing are at that point. And since I've not really written a lot of it lately, my skills are rusty at best.

I like implied violence. But I also like to write violence out. I like the struggle and the blood and the overall violence of the act. The despair and terrifying emotion that fills you when you pour it out into your characters. I think when violence is written well it's nearly poetic to me.

P. Kirby said...

*Looks around nervously at being called out in blog post.*

Did the PM thing. Hopefully, it worked.

I have a love/hate thing with series, especially books. IME nearly every series starts to lose steam somewhere around the 6-7th book. Maybe it's my wee attention span. Maybe it's because a really cute premise can only be flogged so much. (Janet Evanovich, I'm looking at you. I've re-read the first five books in the SP series a billion times. But new books in the series are read out of obligation.) Also, some authors fall too in love with their world (*cough*, G.R.R. Martin) and start spending too much time on subplots and secondary characters.

Actually, fan fiction is often the cure for my irritation with a series that's run aground; I like finding a fic that follows a character that I think is woefully ignored, or that takes the plot in the direction it should have gone.

In general, I'm more forgiving with television series, perhaps because it's visual.

So far, I haven't found a Romance series that works for me. The idea that everyone in town is destined to hook up, happily ever after, with someone else in the town...stretches my credulity too much. Also, I hate it when the storyline wanders from the main couple to a secondary in order to set up the next book.

Of course, mileage really, really varies.

Maureen said...

I was reading up on where Castle is going this season and how to keep the spark going without bungee jumping with a line, like Moonlighting did... I totally believe a couple can be sexy, in love and continually moving forward with tension and keep fans engaged...

I don't think Bones did a good job, but I have faith in Castle... So, yeah, series with ongoing adventure? I'm in!

Written series do have slumps. I remember heading Charles de Lint talk about how every fifth book is often a bit of a slow down in rhythm...

But yeah, JE has flogged that horse to death... LKH lost me when it became more about the sex than anything else... Still reading KH, and Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green... For the most part, I mainly read series! Though usually they are mystery series.

TerriOsburn said...

And Pat will never read my books.

*toddles off for a drink*

TerriOsburn said...

I'm still pissed about Castle and I never went back to Bones. Not because they put them together, because of HOW they put them together. As to Castle, I've never liked Beckett and do not get the chemistry between those two. Makes no sense to me.

Sin said...

Pat, thank you SO so very much for PMing me! I'm really sorry to call you out like that. Now we can go back to doing our secret writing gig without anyone being none the wiser.

Your secret is safe with me!

Sin said...

Chanceroo, I've been told to give Jim Butcher a chance. I heard he writes very visually. Thoughts on that? How is he compared to K. Harrison?

Sin said...

I wish I'd gotten into Castle but I never did. I have troubles with remembering TV shows. I dunno why either because I'm a very visual person. This is what frustrates me about writing too. I see the story very vividly. And translating everything I see in my head to paper can be tedious to the reader but without it, it feels like it's an incomplete image.

TerriOsburn said...

I have the same problem, Sin. I can see the character doing something and then I can't figure out how to describe it. I've even tried making the same facial expression in front of the mirror or something, but I'm just terrible at knowing how to clearly describe things.

Sin said...

Like the half smirk. The twinkle in the eye. The playful way people play off flirting or the way people interact with one another. I can see things and how it should look but how to explain to the reader so they understand exactly what that look is supposed to translate into between the character is painstakingly annoying. I think a lot of what you translate onto paper is translated into a different perspective by the reader too. We all have an idea of what that playful smirk twisting on the hero's lips is supposed to look like, but it probably looks different to each of us.

I suck so badly at describing things that I'm pretty sure even this description makes no sense.

TerriOsburn said...

Nope, you hit it exactly. And since readers are going to "see" what they want, we should probably stop stressing about it. :)

Maureen said...

With visual stuff, you cannot tell what people will see. I can remember designing jewelry with a specific idea in mind and then having people pick it up and see something totally different. So yup, you just nod and figure that is what they see...and that is fine.

Try to push too much detail of how 'Frank' looks when he winks and you lose the story.

As for Jim Butcher...there is a lot of similarity between the Hallows and the Dresden Files, but... Less angst, more kicking ass. More humor. Very episodic. Start with the first one if you go for it. I love the books.

Castle... Well, it's not that I adore Kate, but I do like them together. I like the dynamics of how they push each other. She's more human with him...