Earlier this month, I read a young adult dystopian series. In the end, I felt cheated and foolish. I kept wondering why an author would want to do that to her readers and I can’t come up with an answer. I don’t think she did it on purpose. However, I did realize there were some lessons for me to learn as a writer.
Make each voice distinct
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The first two novels of the series were told by one first person narrator, but the last book had two first person narrators. I couldn’t tell whose point of view I was reading in the last book because the characters spoke the same way. I need to make sure I discover my characters as deeply as possible so that I can switch back and forth between multiple voices and/or POVs without confusing myself or my readers.
Write characters that are relatable
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The main characters and their friends were easy to understand and care about. That’s why I kept reading. I wanted to see their development. Some of the antagonists were a little more difficult to understand because they lacked background. I struggle with this as a writer. How much do I want readers to understand where the antagonist is coming from? How much do I want them to empathize with him? My way around this is to make sure he acts destructively and hurts the protagonist.
Check the facts
In the information age, we all know a lot, but we can’t all be experts. So use that search button and double check the facts, especially if the plot hinges on those facts. I don’t want to start ranting about the major science blunders in the series, so I’ll move on to the lesson that can be extrapolated from this lesson.
Build a writing team
Build a writing team with a critic partner, a developmental editor, a proofreader, and a beta reader! Each of these roles should probably be held by a different person and each person should probably have a different background. So, hopefully, one of them will notice if my plot falls apart because it’s illogical, unsupported, the absolute opposite of reality, etc.
Take worldbuilding seriously
I majored in Comparative Religions and noticed something interesting about creation stories. They answer the questions of how the world was created, where it was created, who created it, what came before it. They also reveal the view and philosophy that the folks living in a shared religious and cultural tradition believe. Rarely, did they leave me with a question. Approaching worldbuilding as if it were a sacred revelation might be the way to avoid leaving readers with unanswered questions about the setting and the worldview that the characters are operating within.
Each book in a series needs to stand alone
A series can be linked by characters with each book being more like an episode within the series such as Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Series. Or it can be linked by an overarching plot like Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles. The Saxon Chronicles span ten novels, each with a different plot, and the overarching plot begins in the first novel and always becomes a secondary priority until the final novel.
I’m going to keep these things in mind because the last thing I want to do is upset my readers with poorly written novels.
What is your favorite series? What do you like about it most? I love hearing from you. Leave a comment.