Leafing through a current copy of The Writer Magazine today, I came across an interesting article by author Anne Perry with the above listed title. She does an excellent job of articulating the challenges of keeping an on-going series fresh and creative.  She subdivided the article into three categories: choosing characters, choosing a setting and choosing a theme.

The information is common sense, but she does a good job of walking the reader/writer through the thinking process one must go through to create a series that will stay alive, book after book. I won't hash over her points here, but they did help me rethink my current projects in which I hope to balance three separate, on-going series over the coming years. Personally,  I just hate to kill off my main characters, so I need to find another way to keep them alive without boring my readers to tears. 

Do you struggle with the same issues of how long to keep a series going? Or, do you think a two or three book series is about all the life one main character deserves?

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My characters age and have typical (more or less) life experiences, so things change all the time.  Now and then someone dies and someone new walks on the scene.  I also change setting.  Theme changes with the time or with a plot, or the setting.

I do this more for myself than for readers.  I have noticed that readers like the status quo.  They know a writer writes a certain kind of book and that's what they buy. They don't like drastic changes.  They also don't like regulars dying.

Thanks for posting this...will have to find and read it.  I've been struggling with notes for my new series (to be determined), and whether to set it in a small town with a few characters, or not.  I have to say I get tired of reading series after three or four books unless the author really makes it interesting plot-wise.  I think readers who read series come to think of the characters as their friends and don't want them to change much. 


Right.  That's what sells the series.
What I haven't figured out yet is if readers want characters that they identify with (same jobs, etc.) OR if they're looking for the totally out of this world different thing?  I, for one, like mysteries that have nothing to do with real life, and that's why I tend to like the historicals or those set in mysterious places.  I don't want my characters to constantly be chatting on their cell phones. LOL. bc
I think readers want both, Bobbi. They desire characters that are unusual in some way, but they also need to relate to that person, to experience some of the same fears, physical frailties, that we all struggle with. If they can't identify with that character at some level, I think you run the risk if losing that reader.
Mark is right.  And you may want to try the Akitada series.  Eleventh century Japan!  :)

Hey Mark,


Thanks for the mention.  I stopped in at B&N today to pick up a copy, but haven't had a chance to read the article yet.





You're welcome, Stephen. Hope it helps with your writing.
Every series I've read has at some point lost the thing that hooked me on it and become stale. I think it needs to keep the freshness by reinventing itself. The 007 movie series is the perfect example of how to take an ancient character and reboot him fresh. You have keep rethinking your guy to make him edgier and fresher and more surprising. If a series author can do that, the series will never become stale.

You challenge your long term readers and if you lose them you gain new readers.

I'd like to answer from a reader's and writer's perspective. *smiles*




What keeps me interested in a series is the characters. If I am attached to the characters to the point where I can't wait to read about them in the next book, you've got me hooked. To keep me hooked you'd also better have a darn good plot but sometimes I can excuse if the plot is a little lackluster if I love the characters.

What turns me off to a series is when the author has obviously grown stale on the series and seems to just be pumping out books to fulfill a contract and not because of passion. I've read a lot of series that fell flat in the middle like the author just threw up something and it wasn't even similar to the impact of the books before it. On the other hand there have been some series that were good all the way through.




I am doing a series now and I am enjoying it more than writing my other books so I will continue to do it while I enjoy it. But if I get to where I am tired of it or bored with the concept I'd rather let it go than to force myself to write something without passion. Readers can tell.


Don't worry about how your readers will feel toward the characters. It's about how you feel. If you still see fire in your characters than continue the series. As long as you enjoy it, you will come up with stories that will do your characters justice. But if you feel YOU are tired of the characters then hang it up. If you aren't happy with a story you're writing others won't be.


Best Wishes!


I see authors groaning all the time about having to complete a book in a series that they are sick of. For me, writing something I don't enjoy would be torture.

That's one thing I don't like about big contracts. You might get a five-book deal for a series but you might get tired of writing it by the fourth book. You can always tell when the writer writes out of obligation only. Something just seems to be missing.

When I was with the big house back in the day, I had a two-book contract but it wasn't a series. That was okay but I wouldn't want a contract for more books than that. I just wouldn't.

I am with a small press now and they contract me book to book for my series. I like it better that way because if I get tired of writing the series then I can just stop at any time and write something else. But I don't like how those huge contracts tie you up. I have a friend with a seven-book contract and she's sweating bullets trying to finish book two in her series.


I'd rather have more freedom than to be tied down. At least with a one book contract you're not tied to the publisher for your next book. At least with small presses.


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