I just finished reading book one in a new series — The Accidental Keyhand (The Ninja Librarian Series) by Jen Swann Downey. Her book got me thinking about the different ways that I could write a series. This is seriously loaded with plot spoilers but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In some series, like this one, there is an over-arching problem. In this case, two groups are in a struggle to control the world throughout time. The good guys are represented by the Lybrariad — think libraries, librarians and freedom of speech but a bit bad-ass. The bad guys are the Foundation — not so much freedom and intellect as threats, control and brute force.
In addition to the over-arching problem, each book has one or more problems that are dealt with within the pages of that single book. In this book, Dorrie and her brother accidently travel to the library that houses the Lybrariad. They have to prove that they are good guys, not bad guys, and find a way to get home again.
I suspect that most often these kinds of series are planned out in advance. I know that was the case with the Harry Potter books.
The second type of series has an overarching them or topic but each book is a fully self-contained story. You could pick up book 4 as easily as book 1 and still know what was going on in the story.
I read Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon books as well as J.A. Jance’s Ali Reynold’s books and think that a lot of mysteries fall into this second type of mystery. The character’s personal life may follow a continuum through the series (married, divorced or widowed, remarried) but there is no over-arching plot.
I suspect that this second types of series doesn’t take quite as much planning as the first. And I have to admit, my ownly series attempts have been of this kind. That said, the series with an overarching plot has it’s own type of appeal.
Which one would you want to write?