How To Plan Out A Series

One of the most popular ways to write fantasy is through a series. Readers enjoy series because it offers them a chance to stick with the same characters over an extended period of time. They get to watch them evolve through a series of events and become very attached to their survival and happiness. Series keep us on edge every moment, waiting for the next book to come out or waiting for the final conclusion. If you’re thinking about writing a series of your own, here are a few tips to help you out.

Step One: Map Out Your Plot

One of the most important things about writing a great series is making sure that your story can be carried over several books. Now if you’re just starting out with an idea, it can seem like a lot to think about right off the bat. But if you’re looking to plan a series, I imagine you have at least some basic idea of what major events happen when. Use those to understand whether you’ve got enough story.

Think about how many books you want to write. There’s no magic number (although three is quite popular); each story idea is unique. Remember, each book needs to have its own plot arc: a clear purpose that is worked towards over the course of the novel definitively fulfilled at the end. Then on top of that, each book needs to contribute to the overall series arc. The series arc itself also has its own purpose that must be worked towards at each stage. If you can see all of these main elements, congratulations! Your idea has enough substance to write a series.

Step Two: Get To Know Your Characters

I talk all the time about getting to know your characters on an intimate level. I’ve suggested creating character profiles and conducting an in depth interview with your character. When writing a series, this is especially crucial.

Over the course of your books, you’re going to be playing around with multiple important characters and multiple big character arcs. Outside of your main character, several secondary characters are going to have significant arcs that will influence the story. In each book, your main character will go through a change. You have to clearly see that change each time you pick up the next book and introduce a new change that will begin to play out. Your secondary characters will evolve over the course of the series, and each book doesn’t have to have a specific change for them.

In order to accomplish this, you need to absorb your characters’ personalities, motivations, and goals. You need to know them better than you know yourself. Using the tools I’ve linked above will assist you.

Step Three: Consider your world.

Your worldbuilding will need to be detailed enough for your readers to learn new places and new details each time they pick up an installment. Think about the Harry Potter universe and how expansive it is, how J.K. Rowling introduced us to new places and magical aspects every time we picked up one of her books. Take the time to ask questions about your world and dive deep into everything from geography down to individual family life. Your magic system will also need to be built to last as it will be a crucial backbone as your characters move throughout your fantastical universe. Dream as big as you want.

Are you ready to start? Happy writing!

An Interview With Aiden

A rendition of Aiden.

What is your full name? – My name is Aiden Faolan Çaelic.

Where do you call home now? – Now, I’m a bit more of a wanderer. I’m with the House of the Sun’s military. I’m stationed currently in Shadowshore, a mining town in the House of the Day.

Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? – I’d like to find… I don’t know.. Some sort of meaning in life. Something to strive for. Something to live for. I want adventure in my life. I joined the military to find it, but I haven’t found it yet.

How would you describe your personality? – I’m… *smiles coyly* a bit of a flirt. You can ask around; anyone will tell you so. It’s healthy to explore the more… sensual sides of your personality. I’m straightforward with people. What you see is what you get. I’m not ashamed of who I am. I am loud and proud, and I like to showcase that. But don’t think I’m some airhead. I’ve got a strong head on my shoulders, and my magical abilities are nothing to chuckle at.

Describe a normal day for you. – Let’s see… I normally wake up alone or with my latest find if it’s a weekend at whatever lodging the troop has stopped at for the night. I like to cuddle after sex; I would rather have my women stay the night. Now, I can be an early riser during the week, mainly due to mandatory obligations to the military. If it’s a weekend, you better believe I’m sleeping in. During the week, it’s training exercises and patrols and the like. I try to search for a little adventure or some skirt to chase. I usually save that for the evening though. Nights are for prowling, throwing back a couple beers with some friends, and just generally having a good time.

How close are you to your family? – In general, I’m pretty close to my family. My mother and I are the closest. She’s always been there for me, always helped me through any and every situation. My father and I have a little bit more of a cordial relationship than a clearly loving one. But we respect each other. My brother and I aren’t really close though.

What are your reasons for being an adventurer? – I’m an adventurer for reasons that are fairly simple. I want to find something in my life worth fighting for. And I’ll face every challenge, climb every mountain, and chase every storm until I find it.

What do you believe makes a successful life? – Freedom to be who you are. To live out a life that’s exciting to you, no matter in what way that is. Enough money to live comfortably and a family to share it with. Life is short. You have to live it to the fullest. Or else, what’s the point?

Going Back to the Beginning: A Lesson in Revisions

Hey everybody! On Monday, I finished up my last exam and my last paper, and I am officially finished with my freshman year! I can’t believe this year has gone by so fast. It feels like just a few weeks ago, I was moving into my freshman dorm, and now I’m trying to move out! I swear moving in was a lot easier.

My thoughts are a little jumbled right now due to me being a little under the weather. But I wanted to make sure I put out something solid for you all to read. So, I want to talk a little more in detail about the work I’ve been doing over the last couple weeks on the novel.

Revisions

At the advice of a very handy revision guide (linked here for reference; I will most likely do an article on this later), I decided to break down my novel into chapter summaries. Basically for each chapter, I made notes about which characters were featured, where the scene takes place, and the important plot points. This serves as a really great tool to understand everything that is going on in the book without rereading the whole thing every time you want to make changes. Note: You should still frequently read the whole book when you do make changes; but right off the bat, I’ve found this to be a good first step.

After this, the revision guide provided me with a multitude of questions to identify the main structural edits that my book desperately needs. I really loved working through them. They gave me the best information I needed to identify what needed to be done. Sometimes it’s very hard to formulate these questions on my own without any direction. With these, I made a list of about 25 major/moderate structural changes that needed to be made.

25 seems like a lot to me. The guide recommended listing 20 for your first pass, but I’ve never been able to do anything with limitations xD. Now, once the list is made, the guide recommends to go ahead and start revising. But… I felt like I really wasn’t prepared to do that yet. Two of my biggest fixes were as follows: make character development bigger and much clearer and incorporate more worldbuilding throughout. I didn’t feel like I had all the tools necessary to revise in the best way.

So I went all the way back to the beginning. Back to my ten months worth of research and notes from before I wrote this novel in November. I hadn’t visited them in great detail in a decent amount of time, so it was long overdue. I worked with the character interview questionnaire alongside my character profiles so I could work with both my basic original ideas and have inspiration to build off of them.

I focused on Grace and Aiden for now as they are the most prevalent in the novel. I plan on working with other characters as I revise as they pop up in the story. Grace has become a fuller character: retaining her stubborn and passionate nature while mixing in a few more character flaws, fears, and somewhat of a softer heart underneath. Aiden has completely reverted back to my original intention for the character that did not come across at all in the current draft. He plays a little more fast and loose and is driven by a strong desire for adventure. His regrets in his life will hopefully come more into play as well as he develops.

What Happens Now?

Now that I’m finished with character development for the time being, I plan on working a bit with each of the locations. As much as I talk about worldbuilding, I need to revisit mine and create more descriptive details that can be readily incorporated when I need them. Especially in the Middle Realm: that area has not been as planned out as I would like.

So because of all this, my timeline has shifted significantly. I plan on spending the entire summer in revisions. A second beta read will be pushed to either late July or August, depending on how efficiently I revise once I’m ready. I won’t be querying until potentially September or October. As much as I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to start looking for literary agents this summer, it is more important that the book is in its best possible condition before being judged. I believe it will make the process go quicker at the end of the day. I want my novel to be strong. So I will put in the time.

Character Development Exercise

Hello everybody! Hope everyone is doing well this week. I’m gearing up for the end of my freshman year, running headfirst into three written exams, two final papers, one final presentation (which luckily is already out of the way as of yesterday), and one final performance for my theater class. Wish me luck. I’m definitely going to need it.

Today, I want to talk about character development. I wrote a previous post a couple months ago about creating character profiles (linked here), and I still believe in the effectiveness of this into getting to know a lot about your characters. However, I want to introduce a new exercise that I have found to be even more effective.

This past week, I’ve been focused on fleshing out character development. In my novel, I had relatively strong characters, but their development was choppy and disjointed. More needed to be seen from them in order to make the story feel whole. After a lot of thought, I revisited working on my characters individually.

The Exercise

I discovered this tool while searching for character development exercises online. After working through the questions for a few days, I can speak for its effectiveness.

This link leads to a blog post from 2010 by the creator of the blog, Labotomy of a Writer, Anastasia V. Pergakis. It contains an incredibly detailed character questionnaire that reads like an interview. Working through these questions allows you to answer questions in your character’s voice and allow your character to take full shape.

I have learned more about my main character in the last few days than I could have imagined. I have found three new stories of her past to explore in various places in the book, stories that blend in seamlessly. Suddenly, my fingers would be on autopilot, pulling new ideas out of thin air. I feel like a new writer again.

I highly recommend giving this post a look. I feel like it gets deep into both a character’s personality and their motivations and goals, which as we know is very important to the progression of your story. Happy writing!

Making Character Profiles

As requested by my followers, today, I want to focus on creating strong characters that can carry your fantasy story.

Now in terms of what is more important, plot or characters, I have an equivocal opinion.

They are both equally important.

Let me tell you why. Your characters are the ones who are going to drive the story. Their decisions, their thought processes, and their emotions will influence every tiny detail of your plot. More than often than not, your characters will also change the direction of your story entirely, leading you to create new plot points that you may never have thought of before.

When I am creating my main characters, I want them to be as complete as possible. I want to know exactly what they look like, where they come from, and their strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, I rely on this pdf tool from EpiGuide that I discovered around age 13.

The link above will send you to a full length character questionnaire/profile with a fairly comprehensive set of questions geared toward authors looking to get deep inside their character’s heads. Now, when you first open the document, you may think it is insanely long. And truth be told, it is. It takes me a few hours to come up with responses and fill things out. However, when I’m finished, I feel like I have a much better understanding of my characters, and my writing always improves by incorporating little details from this profile.

So. What kind of information are you going to create through this character profile?

  1. Basic information: Name, nicknames, birthday, hometown, basic information about their home, job, and relationships (if applicable)
  2. Physical appearance: very detailed questions about physical features as well as the character’s general style (what type of clothes they wear and any prominent accessories
  3. Speech and Language/Communication: This section is one of my favorites; it’s really interesting and something you wouldn’t normally think about. These questions focused on the way your character communicate. Do they have an accent? Any words or phrases that they traditionally use? What about body language?
  4. Everyday Behavior/Habits: This section is going to include things like what a typical day for your character looks like, any personal habits that they may subscribe to, as well as their skills and hobbies.
  5. Family of Origin: basic information about the character’s family and their relationship to their family.
  6. The Past: Past events and memories that have shaped the way the character is today.
  7. Relationships to Others: This section is very important. Not only do the questions help you discover how your character relates to people they know, but also people in places of authority, strangers, people less fortunate, etc. It also includes questions about how other people view your character: what their reputation is to the outside world.
  8. Mental Attitude and Personal Beliefs: These questions go deep into a character’s personal values, fears, and mental outlook on life. It also helps to identify a character’s core strengths and weaknesses. A personal favorite section of mine, I think this is the most important of the entire questionnaire.
  9. Likes/Favorites: A fun set of identification questions to round out your character’s favorite things.

Now, this is a lot of information to take in. But I would like to point it that this is not mandatory, nor the end-all be-all of character design. It is a tool to help you create and think about what are going to be the driving forces behind your characters that will move the plot forward. Personally, I utilize these solely for my main set of characters: my main character, love interest (if applicable), and important secondary characters who have a constant presence (and even for these, I don’t necessarily answer every question).

What I hope for my readers is that this tool that I am sharing with you will inspire you to dig deeper when creating your characters, help to identify areas you may not have considered during character design, and will help you on your journey to writing a fantastic piece of fantasy literature.

Character Profile: Grace

Credits to the brilliant Skye Kelrose for this piece!

Grace Andrea Richardson

Age: 19

Hometown: Lisden, Middle Realm

Physical appearance: Brown hair, blue eyes, pale skin, average height, slim and athletic build

Objective: Find out how and why her brother died

Grace has had a rough year. Her older brother, Leo Richardson, who has always been her best friend and only rock was suddenly killed in a mysterious accident in the Upper Realm. When the Fae didn’t step up to assist with a military burial, Grace and her mother, Amelia Richardson, drove themselves nearly into debt to give Leo a funeral he deserved. Grace has been the main provider for the family since then, using her impressive talent for the violin to dazzle and astound the upper classes.

When she’s not performing, Grace has been preparing to take matters into her own hands, sneaking into the Upper Realm. Bold, brave, and stubborn as hell, Grace has spent countless hours sparring, training, building up her pain tolerance, and collecting supplies from both the Middle Realm and the Upper Realm off of the black market. Now, all she has to do is wait for the perfect moment to make her move.

Vengeance will be hers, no matter the cost.