I can’t believe how many series titles I’ve been reading lately. There’s the Zita the Space Girl graphic novels series as well as The Way of the Househusband, a manga series. Then there are all of the mystery series that I’m reading – probably a dozen.
As a series reader, I have to admit that I don’t always remember everything from book to book. There are simply too many characters and too much background information to keep track of. There is also the problem that sometimes you pick up an interesting book only to discover that it is #3 in the series. Fortunately, there are things that we as authors can do to pull readers into our series at any point in the series.
A series needs to have an overarching issue, something that is explored from book to book. But each book needs to have its own story. What is it that the character wants and why?
My least favorite series books are those that fail to do this. I want something to be settled between page 1 and The End of any given book in the series.
Meet the Characters
Whenever you write a book, you have to spend a certain amount of time introducing the readers to your characters. A series title is no different. In my experience, the hardest books to do this with are cozy mysteries and fantasies since they tend to have so many characters.
Whether a reader picks up book 4 or book 2, they need to know who the characters are and how they are related to each other. This could mean that they are actually kin or that the adventure together, solve crimes together, or live in the same town.
In addition to introducing readers to the characters in each book, series titles have to introduce readers to the world of the story. Where is it set? When is it set? Who lives there? What are the rules, customs, and expectations in this place and time?
The story world becomes increasingly more complex with each book. That means that introducing the reader each time is going to get more and more tricky. But that’s okay because you . . .
The problem with backstory, whether it is something that happened in the previous book or before the story started, is that we writers know it all. We KNOW how important it is. We want to share it all.
The trick is to introduce it only as quickly as the reader needs it to understand what is going on right this very second.
It’s a lot to keep track of and in all series these elements can feel overwhelming. The trick is to treat each book like the first one a reader will pick up. As in any story, lure them into your story world bit by bit.