I think in series. I have friends who think in short stories. They write these charming little encapsulations of a moment, so polished and precious and refined that each is a joyous nibble. (Almost every short story I used to submit to workshops or anthologies was returned with a simple note: "This isn't a short story, it's the synopsis for a novel. Now go write it.")
For a while, I thought in single novels. One growing arc following a character, and those around her (I write predominantly from the woman's point of view -don't know why, always have). Even in my fantasy and science fiction, there is usually a love interest along for the ride, but it is then just that couple's journey. Then a strange thing began happening. Short stories that I submitted to workshops or had friends read started coming back with a new note on the rejections: "This isn't a short story, it's a synopsis for a series. I want to read this series!"
Now, I've learned how to finish a novel. To find the end of a hero and heroine's journey that is in many ways just the beginning. It is a joy to feel that I have learned enough about that character to unravel and reveal that internal moment when they can truly step into joy and we can take the first step of that with them.
But I never really thought about closing a whole series until just recently. My "Angelo's Hearth" contemporary romance series set against the backdrop of Seattle and Pike Place Market (long-term favorite haunts) has just reached its 5th-book conclusion. Now, I thought it was to be a 3-book series, which I talked about here. But my characters still had a bigger story to tell.
And that is part of how I think about my own, "whole series thinking." Each story I write isn't a just telling a story. It is a voyage of discovery in which I uncover not only my main characters lives but have to think about those around them and how they interact. That, in turn, makes me interested in their stories. In "Angelo's Hearth," the side characters were sufficiently complex and interesting that I couldn't rest content until I had written their stories. It is in writing those, that I truly discover who they are and what they have to tell me.
Angelo's Hearth started as a simple novel, though it quickly grew to the story of three friends, each very different and yet each wholly engaging:
- Cassidy in Where Dreams Are Born is the archetypal girl next door. Nice, consider, pretty, and genuinely likeable (to everyone except the hero who she makes completely nuts).
- Jo in Where Dreams Reside is the calm center. She is known for speaking pure truth (perhaps unusual for a lawyer, but she does -sorry, couldn't resist the lawyer joke, I worked for them for 9 years of my careers).
- Perrin in Where Dreams Unfold is part chaos, but also pure joy. Her chaos is wrapped in her unhappy past, and joy is the answer she chose to the question of how she wants to live her life.
- Maria in Maria's Christmas Table: the mother we all wish we had.
- Melanie in Where Dreams Are Written, in many ways the most practical yet lonely of all, until she finds that she is surrounded by friends who offer a bounty of joy.
(Be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter at http://www.mlbuchman.com which launches volume #1 tomorrow, April Fools Day. New release news, free fiction, hot sale announcements, and "Musings from the Muse." Should be fun!)