Author Gail Z Martin joins SciFiChick.com today along her Days of the Dead Blog Tour!
Raising the Stakes
By Gail Z. Martin
One of the things I love about writing series is the space for characters to grow and for the challenges they face to also become more difficult. This is true whether the story is structured to be consecutive novels that tie up a story line in each book (but also build on each other), or are the more traditional multi-part story spread across several volumes.
I tend toward having each book in a series address a particular threat/villain while other threads continue from book to book. So in my Assassins of Landria series, the continued existence of the Witch Lord poses an ongoing threat, while each individual book deals with a specific plot/conspiracy to be dealt with.
Part of showing that growth in the characters lies in facing more formidable dangers so that the characters are required to utilize the skills and knowledge that they have acquired over the course of the story. They should be able to do things several books into the series that they couldn’t have done at the beginning, and should have a better understanding both of their opponent and of themselves.
As an author that means looking for ways to raise the stakes. Maybe the threat at first is more limited in scope or power, but as the books progress, the bad guy reveals new abilities or the plots grow bolder in the damage they could cause. The hero has to ‘level up’ and acquire new allies, gain new skills, and take a broader view of the problem, growing more strategic and less reactive. Along the way, we want the characters to begin to understand themselves in a new way, gaining wisdom and perception as well as the street smarts necessary to survive.
That story progression is one of my favorite things about writing (and reading) a series, and why I usually feel unsatisfied with stand-alone books. If I fall in love with the world and the characters, I want more than just one taste. I want to follow them and watch them grow and change, see them fail and redeem themselves. And likewise, if I read a series where the characters never grow and remain unchanged from book to book, I get impatient, because even if the stories are set in a fairly short span of time, what’s happened should change the characters in some kind of meaningful way. I want them to be as real to me as possible!