The Taylor Davis series is my second series. I finished the Divided Decade Trilogy last summer. (If you missed it, book one–The Candle Star–is free. See my sidebar for links.) When I was writing book two, I swore I’d never write another series again. That’s because it’s so hard to maintain a high level of creativity into a second book. And in the case of my trilogy, those were only related tales and not an extended story line. This is actually my first true series, and I’m finding it’s even harder to keep the same story going.
A series requires continuity. Readers expect the same great characters with the same strengths, the same weaknesses, the same idiosyncrasies. I’m finding that consistency is the name of the game. How would Ranofur act in this situation? The same as he acted in book one. The “rules” have to stay the same, too. If Swaugs turn to green goo in book one, he better turn to green goo in book two. A need for consistency is true of all books, but in a series there’s more at stake. If you derail, all the books that follow become a train wreck. It’s vital that you keep your characters on track. I’m constantly going back to book one to reread sections. I’m also struggling to know how much back story to put into sequels. Some is necessary, but odds are, if a reader is in book two, he read book one.
At the same time, it’s important to show growth within your main characters. In book one, Taylor begins to realize he’s not the screw-up he always thought he was. He finds courage and fortitude he didn’t know he had. His confidence has to continue to grow in stages, and he has to mature in more ways as well. Does his shyness fade? Does he begin to try new things? Does his skill in an area grow? Does he learn to value a particular virtue? Developing a character over a long haul can be a challenge, but one who remains static will never capture the hearts of an audience like one who learns and grows and changes.
It’s also tough to keep the adventure fresh and original. Taylor Davis and the Flame of Findul contains a lot of cool villains and tons of fun fight scenes. I’m stretching my imagination coming up with new material. What crazy place can I send him next? What new adversary will he meet? How can I keep old adversaries entertaining? What will be his next adventure? The longer the series continues, the tougher it becomes to create new content.
Sequels do, however, allow an author to explore brushed over areas a little more fully. For example, book one contained a cursory look at the families of my two main characters. In book two, I get to introduce family members who haven’t actually made an appearance yet, develop their personalities, and show the dynamics in the relationships. And I get to bring Hellfire back and give him a life.
Perhaps the most challenging thing of all is making sure multiple books all hang on the same thread. I have to tie everything together into one neat package. That means I’m constantly going back to my story arc. Constantly aligning details. Constantly looking for loose strings. And constantly looking for ways to tie four individual stories together. Who was the man Swain killed in book one? Why did he kill him? What does that have to do with book three? Why did Swain, a pirate, contribute to the building of his parents’ church, and where will I answer that? How did Q become so interested in WWI? What’s the significance to the symbol carved on the graves? And most importantly, how is Swain continually striving to meet his main objective, and how is Taylor going to thwart him?
I feel like I have my hands full. I’m learning a ton, stretching even more, but my enthusiasm for the series is sky high. I can hardly wait to work out the details and share Taylor’s next adventure!