|Book 2 of the Blue Moon Rising series|
"MIXED APPROACH" SERIES
Once again, I've had to make up a title in order to differentiate one type of series from another. So far, we've talked about "cliff-hangers" and about series books that read more like "single titles." This week's Mosaic Moments is going to concentrate on series that use a bit of both. In these series there is an overall goal which must be reached, but each individual book is a completed portion of the greater story. Readers are not left hanging, with the feel of "If you want to know what happened, you'll have to wait for the next book." As a detailed example, I'm going to use my own SyFy Adventure/Romance series, Blue Moon Rising, to try to illustrate what I mean.
In this series a princess from a pacifist planet accidentally inspires a rebellion against a greedy empire, and finds herself not only drawn into the resistance but involving three other young royals as well. The first book features imprisonment, travel to distant planets, and space battles, but it also emphasizes romance, as it was originally intended as a stand-alone book. Basically, Rebel Princess has its own Happily Ever After ending, even though by the time I got there, I realized it was going to take at least three more books before the rebels could take down the nasty empire.
Book 2, Sorcerer's Bride is the story of a different princess and her not-so-eager husband, but it dwells more strongly on the triumph of the rebellion on a single planet, and the significance of this triumph to the final victory over the Empire. In other words, there is romance, but the long-term theme of rebellion is becoming stronger.
In Book 3, The Bastard Prince (written but not yet out), the theme of rebellion becomes stronger and romance becomes less defined by being spread among three couples: 1) the ups and downs of the hero and heroine from Book 1 as they struggle to expand the rebellion. 2) A second romance that does not have the traditional HEA ending, and 3) the romance of the young prince who doesn't talk. A prince who manages to redefine the traditional concept of HEA. We also see a vast panoply of characters ranging over an entire sector of the galaxy.
Grace note: As the overall goal of the Blue Moon Rising series becomes more important, Happily Ever After fades a bit; i.e., the rebellion overshadows romance. I even allowed myself a bit of a "cliff hanger" at the end of Book 3, pointing toward the final resolution of who rules in the Empire, not to be settled until Book 4, Royal Rebellion. (At least I hope I can resolve all the bits and pieces in one last book. That's the problem with a cast of what seems like thousands, many of them pulling in directions of their own.)
So what is the point of Blue Moon Rising? How is it designed to entertain? In a nutshell, the first three books spell out the romantic fates of two princesses and a prince. And how their lives are forever altered by becoming part of a rebellion against a powerful foe. Book 4? Well, there's another royal out there, as well as more aspirants to the Emperor's throne than anyone anticipated. Hopefully, I'll manage to wrap it all up into a HEA for most of those left standing. And in the course of doing so, while striving for a "single title" feel, I managed to use all three types of series, finally letting the overall theme of rebellion overshadow the romances, and even sneaking in a moment of "cliff-hanging."
Grace note 2: What is described above is not a formula for writing a series. It's merely used as analysis of a series that does not stick to one style. Each author must decide which style works best for his/her work.
I saved Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick for this post because she has written all three kinds of series. In her Futuristics, writing as Jayne Castle, she created Harmony, an earth-like world which is totally cut off from Old Earth and has had to learn to survive on its own. Most of the books set in Harmony are individual romances with strong suspense elements, all with HEA endings. The initial four books grew into book after book about Ghosthunters (no, not the kind you're thinking of) and the women who find them fascinating. Women who grow stronger and stronger in their own right with each book.
And then, oops, some of the characters on Harmony turn out to be descended from the psychically charged characters in Amanda Quick's historical novels. And magical elements make their way into books by Jayne Ann Krentz. In fact, I'm not even going to attempt to unravel the cross-over between these series, except to say that some of Ms Krentz's series are "single title"; some have a strong continuing theme with not all problems resolved; and some have characters who echo down the centuries from old earth to the far-away planet of Harmony. I call that creativity to the max.
Rhys Bowen in her Royal Spyness mysteries has a strong continuing theme, with emphasis of romantic frustration to the max for the hero and heroine. Yes, a mystery is solved in each book, but the romance is so rocky, as well as the heroine's problems with her family and poverty (in spite of being something like 33rd in line for the British throne) that the reader is always left with wondering what is going to happen next. I had to laugh when Ms Bowen managed a Christmas retreat for her poor beleaguered hero and heroine, undoubtedly so she could keep her faithful readers from gnashing their teeth over continued celibacy. Again, individual mysteries but with a strong overall theme that never lets up.
Kim Harrison, in her series, The Hollows, writes incredible stories of magic and sorcery, piling on problems for her heroine in book after book after book. The overall idea is definitely "cliff hanger," yet Ms Harrison manages to provide a satisfactory ending without leaving the reader gnashing his/her teeth too loudly about an unfinished story. But yes, there's a overall theme, building stronger and stronger with each book, until readers wonder how the heroine's problems can ever be resolved. Yet Ms Harrison does it so well, I didn't mind waiting all those years, wondering if the poor girl was ever going to get her happy ending.
I'd like to end with one of my all-time favorite authors, Gail Carriger. If you have not read her Parasol Protectorate series, you've missed some priceless creativity. Comedy and high drama, well laced with magic, werewolves, and vampires. (And, believe me, I don't even like vampires - until I met the ones created by Ms Carriger.) She is now creating a series for the offspring of the characters in the Parasol Protectorate, as well as a YA series. All have acceptable "finished" endings to each book, while maintaining a strong continuing set of problems that will not come to a successful conclusion until the of the final book.
Next week: a summary of what I hope we've learned about writing a series
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