What Exactly is a ‘Book series’? – One Piece to Make a Whole

This is perhaps, the most recognised format of a ‘book series’. You know the ones I mean – Book 1 leads into Book 2 and so forth. They are also, for obvious reasons, the most popular type of book series, and actually I’ve seen them referred to as chapters of a really long book – which does make sense sort of, doesn’t it?

A Game of Thrones coverStrangely enough, most book series of this type tend to be fantasy, although there are some exceptions. You’d definitely class Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series in here, as well as the recent novels by George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, probably better known now by the TV Series A Game of Thrones. But as with these examples, the number of books that make up the whole series vary. Tolkien had three, Martin has seven (and counting). But it is important to note that no matter the number, the context stays the same. I suppose when you look at George Martin’s series, it really does make the aforementioned ‘chapters’ make a hell of lot more sense.

So what about some more examples? Well, we can include Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which follows the plight of both Lyra His Dark Materials Coverand Will as they start to unravel the mystery of ‘stolen’ children, alternate universes, as well as touching on delicate subjects such as religion and death. I can’t recommend this series enough for people who enjoy getting lost in a series and lose sleep as a result. It is so cleverly woven together, which I think sums up the commonality among all of book series.

Planning. Understanding. No matter how you phrase it, if a book series is something you have in mind, you most certainly have to know the outcome of your storyline, and just the end of ‘Book 1’. It is vital that you have a clear end in sight, as not only does it strengthen your narrative early on, but it stops any potential continuity errors, which is something dedicated fans will almost certainly notice a mile off. You could use a white/chalk board to keep the main points jotted down (perfectly positioned above your writing desk). This will help keep everything positive, fresh and clear. I know of an author who still uses the old fashioned white cards used by orators and people who make regular speeches. It is pretty much common knowledge that Tolkien wrote an entire history of Middle-Earth, which was considerably longer than the actual three volumes. You need to know the back story of your characters, and plant little details in each of your books to keep things glued together.

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series is another recent example of a popular book series. I have to admit I hated Twilight, which meant I never read the following titles. But putting my own opinion Twilight Coveraside, it is important to hook your readers in the first book, because ultimately they are the ones that will follow you into the next, and the one after that and so on. It is pointless for readers to start off with ‘book 3’ let’s say, because they would have missed all of the details and important arcs revealed in the earlier books. Stephanie Meyer managed to fix in with a niche, and took vampires and werewolves back into the limelight days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also managed to write gritty, dark fantasy and make it appeal to the female audience. I think it is fair to say that the majority of the dark fantasy series were read by males. And this probably helped shape The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzzanne Collins.

But I think this leads to one of the downsides to writing these types of book series. You simply have to had read from the beginning, which could alienate a vast percentage of readers. Some readers may take to certain storyline that prominently features in ‘Book 2’ let’s say, but only to later discover that they needed to have read ‘Book 1’ first, so they perhaps put down your book, and go to look for something more accessible. This is perhaps, one of the main reasons why some readers dislike book series on the whole. Another could be the ending.

I remember reading that a particular author hates cliff-hangers at the end of books. For that person, it doesn’t answer the questions arisen during the course of the book, and subsequently just creates more questions. This is a fabulous point; they’d prefer that they can put the book down and feel satisfied, rather than duped into buying later novels. I completely understand this point, because some books should be read as an individual – which leads onto ‘the stand-alone book series’ which i’ll talk about in a later post. But on the cliff-hanger point – some readers love a juicy, hair-pulling ending because it keeps them excited for the next in the series.

As you can see from above, I’ve mentioned quite a few well-known examples, but I felt we alsoweirdcase need to look at some of the lesser known. And after flitting between a few, I’ve decided to talk about The Midnight Chronicles, by Neil Trigger. We set things off in The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange, where we follow the bizarre explorations of Bethany, a young girl who has recently moved into Windy Fall along with her parents. After a few strange happenings, Bethany discovers a secret staircase underneath her bed that leads her to the wacky supernatural city of Strataton, a city that is floating upon a cloud! As Bethany is taken under the wing of a witch called Mrs Etherington-Strange, we meet some crazy characters along with a cheese firing dragon! It’s a charming story, full of creative genius.

The Mobile Monster ZooBook two returns us to Bethany’s life as a rather alluring monster circus heads to Windy Falls, but as you can probably have guessed, there are more sinister things afoot, including the reappearance of the wicked Mrs Etherington-Strange. Bethany and her friends use everything they have learnt, and must stop Strataton from falling out of the sky. This sequel is just as imaginative, and Neil Trigger is very much a modern day Roald Dahl. I have yet to read Book 3 in the series, but if the previous two are anything to go by, I’m sure The Wizard’s Reflection will be just as fun, as this introduces us to a new character by the name of Orphan, an orphan who receives a cursed mirror that holds a captive wizard inside.

The Midnight Chronicles is a wonderful and energetic series for younger children aged between 7 and 10, and this is a brilliant introduction to the fantasy genre that I’m sure will have them coming up with their own stories. The best place to start is obviously Book 1.

The Weird Case of Mrs Etherington-Strange is available in both paperback and eBook from:

Amazon UK/ Amazon US / The Book Depository

If you are interested, I reviewed Book 1 here, and also Book 2 here

UK author, Sharon Sant talks tomorrow on her writing process for her Sky Song trilogy – which links into this ‘One Piece to Make a Whole’ point. Stay Tuned for tomorrow for her witty and uber-smart musings on the subject. In the meantime though, what are some of your favourite multi-length book series – the ones that are more like jigsaw puzzles, smartly weaving a longer narrative, which if taken out of the whole means you could miss a good chuck.

Post 1 – What Exactly is a ‘Book Series’

Post 2 – What Exactly is a ‘Book Series’ – One Piece to Make a Whole

Post 3 –Guest Post by Sharon Sant

Post 4 – What Exactly is a ‘Book Series’ – The Standalone

Post 5 – What Exactly is a ‘Book Series’ – Crossing Boundaries

Post 6 – Guest List


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