Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Series, Roads, and Bridges

As promised, here is the post. I warn you though...I kind of ramble and get carried away with the analogy. Read at your own risk! It might be confusing.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about Series and Stand Alone's. I discussed my frustrations with book #2 in a trilogy series. You know, how often times it's lacking. Like it's a bridge from the beginning to end, but the bridge isn't sturdy and can't hold its own. 

Anyway, it got me thinking more about how a series should be. How the beginning road should start out. How the bridge (or bridges) in the middle should support and connect. And where you should be by the end book. You know, what kind of road and destination we hope to find.

Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately for all you) I didn't get my own drawings made. So we're stuck with pictures from the internet to relate my message.

The first book in a series, or any book for that matter, needs to look something like this.


Now I realize there are many different diagrams to show this, but the point I'm trying to get at is that it needs to start down, at the bottom of a hill, and work its way up. 

Here are a few things we don't want to see.

 A flat road with no end, or rise.

 A road that's going nowhere but down!

No, we want something that will slowly take us up, with a few high spots, but an ending that will rise us to the top and let us down softly to a lower spot. In a series, that lower spot doesn't mean back to the bottom. More like a comfortable waiting area where we are excited for the next road, or bridge, but not upset about where we were dropped.

I hope that makes sense...

Now I'll talk about the second book (or middle books) in a series. I like to think of them as bridges. 

And, like our road, we want a similar bridge. Here are some bad examples.
 This isn't going to take us anywhere. Only make us regret we picked up that next book.
 As small climax won't cut it.
Don't leave gaps and holes of missing information.
Don't confuse the reader by adding or keeping too much info from them.
And most importantly, make sure the bridge can hold its own. We don't need a middle book that is held up by the beginning and end books.

Get the idea? It happens all the time. Actually I just read a second book in the series that held its own better than the first. I felt like the first book was a road creeping at an incline with a small climax at the end. But the second book was more like this.

 Yes, I realize this is an elevator. But that's how drastic the change was. It took me from a low point and lifted me to a whole other level of the story.

Now the end book should look much like the first. So, I won't bore you with more pictures and words. But a series altogether should look like this.

 Each peak should be the climax of a book. And each book should get you closer to your end goal, which should be the top of the mountain. There may be a bridge in there, but it should serve its purpose and stand on its own.

I like to think about the Harry Potter series. It's amazing! Each book has its own climax and each character has a purpose. All together though, they tackle something on a much bigger spectrum. The plot reaches the goal for the book but also contributes to the conflict and resolution for the series overall. The roads are sturdy and the bridges not only stand on their own, but carry the reader like an elevator to another level. 

So, there you have it. A brain dump about series. Read em. Write em. Hate em....and Love em :) 

I already asked you about them in my last series post, but have any of you come across a rickety bridge? How about a flat road or a small climax?


  1. I like the road bridge analogy. Writing does sometimes feel like building a book. I know I've come across some rickety bridges and flat roads, but I can't think of any offhand. I do know that sometimes, with a series, I'll lose interest in the second or third book.

  2. I think this analogy is great and I wasn't confused at all. This is the precise reason I'm not attempting a series, yet.

  3. Great analysis of how books should be written, whether or not they are stand-alones or part of a series.

  4. I'm glad you guys like the analogy. My book I'm working on right now, that will be query read soon, is actually a series. But I don't know if I want it to be two or three. I love two book series. I just need to decide how big I want the final conflict and if it's worth three books or just two. And now that I've made this post...well, I have to make it good right? Haha. I'd make it good either way.

  5. Holy heck the time and effort that this post took must have been tough. I loved every piece. I loved every analogy you used and DAMN GIRL what a creative soul you are! I would have never been able to find all those bridges to make my point.

    I've personally never needed to bridge a gap for a series. Mine are standalone novels and I couldn't imagine picking up where I left off and still making it interesting. What a testament to those who do.

  6. This was an awesome analogy! I love the pictures, and HP is a great example of how to write a series.

    Your post the other day really got me thinking about my series, and I am really tossing around the idea of the middle book being a companion novel. Which would make the 3rd book the bridge between the 2. Or something like that.

    Thanks, more food for thought!

  7. Great analogy, Michelle, and I loved the photos to go along with it--very apt. :) Seems everything is a series these days, and I admit that sometimes I read the first in a series and am not too compelled to read more. I tend to prefer single titles, I think.

  8. What a beautiful analogy when you add those images especially! I love series, but you're right--all the books need to be bridged together. I love how Rowling does it with HP.

    Have a great day!

  9. LOVE this analogy. I think each book in a series needs to have it's own plotline. I also think with a series, it needs to follow the same basic plot structure throughout the WHOLE series that you use in a single book.

  10. I think you really nailed this. I agree JK Rowling did it right. Each book has it's own beginning, middle and end, but the main story thread carries through.


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