Like many people, I love a good series. Books 2 and 3 and 4 (if it is longer than a trilogy) allow me to spend time with characters I already love, get to know them better, and share in another of their adventures. As a book reviewer, I often look for series books. Let’s face it. Because I only review books that I can highly recommend, I don’t want spend time reading books that I can’t review. I only have so much reading time, after all.
But I may have to rethink this approach because lately I’ve read two second books that I simply couldn’t review. They felt too slight. This leads me to the two things that every successful series needs.
1. An Overarching Plot. In every series, you have an plot that extends over the series as a whole. In Harry Potter, this was the fight between Harry and Voldemort. In The Hunger Games, it is the conflict between Katness and President Snow (representing the government). If you want to write a series, your character has to be looking for something, fighting for something or trying to solve some great big problem throughout the entire series. In a mystery series, your character might be trying to establish herself as a detective or looking for his parents (series plot) while solving an individual mystery in each book. But this touches on what else a series needs…
2. An Individual Plot (with a smaller goal) for each book in the series. This might mean that Harry Potter is looking for the Sorcerer’s Stone, trying to rescue a friend, or find a horcrux. If your series features several characters, each with their own book, the plot for that book will likely represent that character’s personal journey. In The Demon’s Lexicon, Nick battles beside his brother but also struggles with why he is so emotionless in comparison. Yes, there’s a larger good vs evil plot for the series as a whole but this one is all about Nick, although it does touch on the larger battle.
Recently, I have read book 2 in two separate series knowing that I wasn’t going to go on to book 3. Why? Because, in each case, book 2 was too slight. Although it addressed the larger battle, the individual plot was too slight and came across as an introduction to book 3. Book 2 just didn’t have enough weight compared to the other books in the series . . .
Maybe that should be #3.
3. The various book in the series need to be weighted equally. Don’t lure me in with a strong first book and then use Book 2 to introduce a strong Book 3. All three (or more) books need to carry their weight and present me with a fantastic reading experience.