How to Successfully Plan a Character-Driven Static Book Series
A static book series is one that follows the same character or cast of characters, but each book is mostly self-contained. Often these novels can be read out of order and still provide an enjoyable, easy to understand experience for the reader. Because each book has their own plot, these series can be free-flowing and long, and are perfect for authors who fall in love with and hate to leave their characters.
Static Book Series Are All About Your Characters
Keys to Character Development
If you want a successful book series with loyal fans who can’t wait for your next book, you need to develop a three dimensional character or cast readers love. That means taking the time to craft your character’s voice and personality, so they sound and feel real to your readers.
To develop voice, focus on your character’s perspective. How do they see the world? What words would they use to describe it? What are their opinions, hopes, dreams, fears, and religious beliefs? All of these aspects of a person influence how they interpret the world around them. That interpretation is a major contributor to character voice. Here is an article on character perspective Perspective in Creative Writing: Who Is Telling Your Story and one on voice Syntax: Sentence Organization and Voice Creation.
Your character needs to be instantly recognizable to your readers. That means they sound different than any other character when they speak. It also means an in depth physical description and a certain degree of likability. While not all characters – even main ones – need to be likable, a character that carries a series does to an extent. Readers might read a single novel to see an unlikable character get their comeuppance, but few will read a whole series.
I do want to specify there’s a difference between likable and kind or nice or heroic or even good. A character can be an asshole who’s blunt to the point of cruelty, but their redeeming quality is they always step up when a family member needs them. People are complicated. Your characters should be too. Their flaws are what make them unique and believable. Likable does not mean perfect.
Small Character Arcs
Although you need a robust character development, most static series are more effective and last longer with small character arcs. Readers are reading for the characters. As soon as they complete their needed character growth, their story is over.
However, each book should show your character taking at least a small step along their overall arc. This could be baby steps toward finally trusting someone or a small commitment for someone who is a proven commitment-phobe. Or they could be learning self-control or how to operate in their society. With these small changes, each book will have a tiny character arc, but your character will still be the same person your readers fell in love with. If readers are going to be able to pick up any book in your series and start reading, drastic character changes won’t often work.
Plotting Static Series Books
Before you commit to any type of book series, you need to make sure you have enough ideas for multiple books. The nice thing about a static series is you don’t need to come up with a big complex plot; all you need is ideas for what could happen to your character.
Each book in a static series needs its own, distinct plot, but you don’t necessarily need to be plotter to write a book series. Static series can be crafted as you write as long as you have a loose string of ideas to work with.
So take a moment to sit down and brainstorm all the different situations your character could go through – big and small. List conflicts, confrontations, and obstacles. If you’re a plotter, group the ideas into plots you can use for different books and create outlines. If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, use the list to inspire you as you write, especially if you don’t know what to do next.
While writing, add to your list of ideas, and don’t save things for a later book. You’re a writer. You will always get another idea, so you don’t need to horde them. Books in a series fall flat when it becomes obvious authors are saving a conflict, confrontation, or event for the next book.
An Editor’s Suggestions for Planning Static Book Series
To understand how to craft a static book series readers love, study them. Read series that follow a single character or group of characters and pay attention to how the author put the series together. What techniques are they using? How do they develop a distinct, full character? Episodic TV series use similar writing techniques, so pay attention to those too.
Also decide on the timeline of your books. Does everything happen over the course of a summer, making your protagonist perpetually nineteen? Or does your series cover a lifetime? Knowing how much time passes throughout your series will help you know how to develop your characters and plot because you’ll have a better idea of how much your characters will change and what kinds of events can take place. If your whole series occurs over the course of the summer, a snow storm probably can’t become an obstacle for your character.
Now it’s up to you to craft a character readers can’t get enough of and plan your static book series to Ignite Your Ink.
How do you plot a book series or plan on plotting your first one? Share your process in the comments below. For more articles on character development and a free Synonym Worksheet you can use to develop your character’s voice, subscribe to Ignite Your Ink.
Ignite Your Ink is written by editor and author Caitlin Berve. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, actively participates in multiple writers’ organizations, and is dedicated to helping writers produce content that leaves an impression on readers.