Trilogies vs character series vs themed series.
For those of you who have perused my website to check out my books, you'll already know that I write standalone novels and serialized books. When I started, I never wanted to write a series. They take a long time. I have so many story ideas that I felt I might be trapped in one world. But when I began writing sci-fi, it wasn't a choice anymore. Sometimes it is the world or the story or the character that can drive an author to write a series.
So what are a few ways for an author to write a series?
1) The trilogy, or quadrilogy depending on the number of books, such as The Hunger Games, the Expanse, Lord of the Rings. These books need to be read in order because there is often a different focus per book with an overarching story.
2) The character-themed series where each book can be read as a standalone, such Jack Reacher, Alex Cross. These books can usually be read in any order because they are one situation with a resolution, but there is still backstory that readers would benefit from if they read the books in order.
3) The themed series is more like Goosebumps, Twilight Zone, Black Mirror. The stories are standalone and follow a theme - same length, same genre, same unusual settings. It may be authors writing fairytale retellings or books all about a specific topic.
Many series need to be read in order. I remember buying the Twelve by Justin Cronin at the book store and THERE WAS NOTHING ON THE BOOK TO INDICATE THIS WAS BOOK 2. Halfway through reading, I had to stop because I had no idea what was going on. I did a little digging and discovered this was book 2. Since then I have read THE PASSAGE, so now I'll be able to read book 2 again.
This is true of my EARTH QUARANTINED series and my WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE series. The books need to be read in order. That is the way they were written. They have a much larger arc, yet each book focuses on one obstacle for the characters to overcome.
In Welcome to the Apocalypse, Book 1 is about getting out of the game the players find themselves trapped in. Book 2 is about getting out but finding out that the malfunctioned game is the only way to save their lives. Book 3 is about getting home and discovering that home will never be the same again. the overarching story is one of friendship and getting home, wherever that may be.
In my Earth Quarantined series, Book 1 is about the discovery of a hidden world that will topple the utopian world. Book 2 is about the start of a revolution. Book 3 will be about getting out from under the alien rulers' oppression to reclaim Earth, whoever the winner may be.
Many books, especially in a trilogy, will have cliffhanger endings. I'm guilty of that. I think TV shows have engineered our brains into writing cliffhangers. THE 100 is one show that motivated me to write the cliffhanger in my WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE books. Love them or hate them, they exist and they exist for a reason. The journey simply isn't over yet and we want to leave a reader hanging and wanting more. And it works for TV, so why not books? Especially when readers and viewers have to wait a year or more to binge-watch the next season. If there wasn't one or more unresolved situations, we might not watch the next season.
So why does an author write a three-part or four-part (or longer these days) series? Why not just write one standalone story? Believe me, I tried. When I wrote each of these stories, I found that there were many more layers that needed to be unfolded. I simply couldn't tell the story in one 200,000 word book. When an author builds a world, they build everything: governments, citizens, healthcare systems, technology, schools, military, and everything else that is found in a normal world. Authors need to explain this world to the reader. We need to explain how things came to be.
I am currently working on book 3 of the Earth Quarantined series. This will resolve all the issues and wrap everything up in a neat little bow. To a point. This world is so big that I could write more books, and I might in the future.
For now, I will leave you with this review of EARTH ARRESTED, book 2 in my EARTH QUARANTINED trilogy.
The Bottom Line: An epic sci-fi tale of revolution, family loyalty and survival.
In Earth Arrested, the planet is governed by aliens called the Criterion. A “one child per family” rule has been in effect to control population growth and resources. That’s a life-threatening problem for celebrity Kethryn Miller, who learns that she has a twin sister, Neah, who has been hidden in an underground facility to ensure her survival.
After Kethryn and her mother are arrested for a “conspiracy to overthrow and undermine the Criterion,” Kethryn is disturbed to hear that her ailing mother has been fully cooperating by disclosing details about the illicit Twinborn Protection Program, which could lead to the destruction of her sister and thousands of others like her. Meanwhile Neah and her fellow Indwellers are rapidly preparing for two things: imminent attack from the Criterion, and execution of a plan to reclaim the planet.
At the core of this second book in D.L. Richardson’s trilogy, the story of an oppressed people and their question for social justice, revolution and ultimately survival would work in any genre. Fortunately, her futuristic version of Earth, its inhabitants and the alien race that has overtaken it is fully absorbing. Cloaking technology, the constant threat of radiation poisoning and espionage add to the suspense. Along the way, Richardson includes snippets from historical archives throughout that detail world events that led humanity to its ultimate plight. These range from the familiar - like the Berlin Wall crisis in 1949 - to those of her invention, grounding her tale with facts that make it all the more believable and gripping.
While Richardson adds plenty of backstory to help readers acclimate to the grim, wondrous world she has created, readers are strongly encouraged to read Earth Quarantined before tackling Earth Arrested.