This post wraps up my series on Writing a Series. It’s fitting that it worked out to be a three part feature, since I tend to write in trilogies. =) The last thing I wish to discuss is weaving your series together so it’s one tight knit story. In order to do this you need an overall theme and at least one overarching story line.
For the intent of this post, I’m talking about the kind of series that if you read the books out of order, you’re lost. I don’t mean a series of stand-alone books all set in the same town or with cross-over characters. While I love these books too, they’re not what I think of when I say trilogy or “quadrilogy.”
- Each book may have the same theme or each may have its own with one master theme binding the all the books together. (One ring to rule them all…sorry, I had to.)
- Theme is often intuitive. You might finish your book wondering “What the heck is my theme?” You can find your overall theme by looking at the Goals & Conflicts of the book. You will find your theme in the GC of your GMC. If your MC’s Goal is freedom of choice and the Conflict is family or society’s morays, your theme may be independence or the quest for self reliance.
Second, OVERARCHING STORY:
- At least one story line should develop over the entire series. The pace of that arch should be steady, build with each book, and never drop off completely.
- The resolution to this arch must pay off for the reader. Pay off BIG. If it’s in all of your books then it will be a big deal to the reader. Make the resolution count.
As examples of the above (because I always learn better if there are examples), let’s look at two TV series – currently showing and very popular: Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.
Theme: There are a few themes that pop up again and again, but one could argue the main theme is adaptation and survival. If you watch the show, you know something is always happening and there is no such thing as peace and quiet. Change is always in the air. It’s so keenly highlighted because the series is set during a time when British aristocracy was on the endangered species list. The few that survived did so because they changed with the times. For old British families, steeped in tradition and ritual, this was not an easy concept. And there’s your conflict!
Goal: Survival of Downton Abbey and the Grantham family in it.
Conflict: The fast-paced ever changing world around them.
Theme: Adapting to change to survive and flourish.
Overarching story: Wars come and go, relationships change, there’s always some sort of family drama, but the one story arch that continues over each season is why the creators titled it Downton Abbey. The aristocratic British household is the overarching story. Every episode shows the household surviving, overcoming, adapting, muddling through, mourning loss, and celebrating triumph. Heirs may die, daughters may run off with the chauffer, but how does Downtown Abbey as a symbol survive? What does it represent to those within the walls and in the neighboring town and how will they protect that?
The Walking Dead
Theme: Guts. Ha! No I’m kidding.
Let’s break it down…
Goal: Personal Survival of the MCs (Hmmm, I’m starting to see a theme with my favorite TV shows…)
Conflict: The world around them – both zombies and most of the humans – will stop at nothing to either destroy them or take everything from them.
Theme: Staying alive, persevering in this new world, without losing their sense of humanity.
Overarching Story: There are several, but I’ll pick just one – Rick’s arch as a leader.
His journey from trusting family man and stand up Sherriff’s deputy to hardened, suspicious, take no sh*t “Ricktator” is one of the best character developments I’ve seen on television. *pause for fangirl flail* OHMIGOD IT IS SOOOO AWESOME! Eeeeeeeeeeeee!
Sometimes he rocks it as a leader, other times he screws up royal, but he’s a character you care about. Viewers are invested in his arch as a leader and whether or not he’ll make it or crack up completely.
So, there you go. Theme and overarching story. If you plan on writing a series, I hope this helps. If not, I hope it will get you thinking about the series (book or tv) you enjoy and why. I’d love to talk shop about it in the comments. Chances are good I’ll fangirl again.