What Does It Take To Write a Series People Want to Buy?

What Does It Take To Write a Series People Want to Buy?

Credit belongs to the Six Figure Author Podcast (Formally Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast). The episode is from Aug 25, 2015 (nearly six years old as of writing this), and still as valid as the day they aired it.

At its core, fiction is about emotional experiences for the reader. Provide that and you’ll find that your readers will stick with you throughout your series and recommend your books to their friends.

Bullet Points

  • Romantic tension between major characters.
    • Lindsay used SG1 as an example with Sam and Jack.
  • Unanswered questions and world level mysteries.
  • Knowing the series arcing plot when you start.
    • Doesn’t need to be fully plotted out first, but knowing where the ending is headed will offer a sense of progress in all the series installments.
    • Jo noted he does the same thing but by using a giant question that he knows he must solve by the end of the series; usually not knowing the answer himself until the final book. A mystery can be an excellent method for engaging readers and instilling your own writing with momentum. Reveals are instantly imbued with emotional resonance.
    • Lindsay points out that having an open storyline also forces the reader to keep going. The greatest motivation for readers is the need to know what happens next. This is the crux of an unsatisfying ending, where the answer to what happens next doesn’t live up to what the reader had been building up in their own minds. Yet another advantage to publishing quickly. The less time the reader has to buildup their own theories for the ending of the series, the less likely they are to experience a letdown when they reach your ending.
  • Flesh out your entire cast so that each character feels real and substantial to the story.
    • Jo noted, you know you’re doing this right when fans each have their own favorite characters from the cast. Readers have to care what is going to happen to the characters, it’s not enough to have them enjoy the quarks.
  • Large enough setting that the readers can’t experience the entire world in one book. This ensures that you have fresh places to visit in future books and can create new tension in the minds of the reader.
    • This can also setup a spinoff series.
  • Multiple points in the timeline as well.
    • Having larger story lines that span over large timelines will allow you to have a larger series, while keeping the series small enough to have their own arcs.
    • Raymond E. Feist is an excellent example of how to develop this well, with his standalone trilogies within a larger series that spans an entire world and hundreds of years.
  • Jeff, strong characters; characters that feel real to the readers and that they’re able to relate to.
  • Jeff, cliffhangers help sell books, but doesn’t work well with a series that has a large time gap between releases.
    • See readers needing to know what happens next.
  • Humor is important to making a series feel real.
    • This is true for having all the emotions of the human condition covered. By spanning across everything from Fear to Love will ensure that readers feel the world and characters are real. The contract between scenes that change emotional tone will also help make the story stick in the reader’s mind.

Further Reading

The Anatomy of Story by John TrubyThe Anatomy of Story by John Truby

“Audiences love both the feeling part (reliving the life) and the thinking part (figuring out the puzzle) of story.”

The problem story tellers face is in telling a great story, as a human we all tell stories as our natural function in life. Therefor, the point of the author is to tell a story that’s so real it will resonate with all the readers. (Jung & Cambell Architypes).

Key Point: All stories are a form of communication that expresses the dramatic code.

“The dramatic code, embedded deep in the human psyche, is an artistic description of how a person can grow or evolve.” This is a rephrasing of Jung’s architypes. Great stories show human nature, in an entertaining manner, and allows the reader to learn.

These are just a few highlights. The Anatomy of Story is master’s degree in creative writing distilled into 400 pages. Each chapter building off the last until it reaches the Twenty-Two-Step Story Structure. Don’t skip ahead to this point, there is no fluff in this book—unlike so many other nonfiction books on craft—the chapters leading up to this are a must read to understand it. You may even need to read some books referenced within it. (I know I did.)

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