Charles Yallowitz became my friend through WordPress. He’s the author of the fantasy series, Legends Of Windemere. The length of this series intrigues me. I asked him how he keeps the tales interesting over a long series. My own efforts are all stand alone novels, and he graciously offered this advice.
Thanks to C.S. Boyack for giving me a chance to write a post for his blog. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere fantasy series. This is a 15 book series and I’ve already published the first 6 books while having written the first 9. It’s less confusing than it sounds unless you’re the one writing it, which is the topic at hand. How does one keep a long series going with an overarching plot and keeping people interested?
SUBPLOTS AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
At least that’s what I use. You see, the overarching story doesn’t get fully revealed in my series until Allure of the Gypsies, which is Book 3. There are hints and whispers in the previous books, but those focus a lot on establishing the world and characters. The hope is that a reader will get attached to the heroes and villains more than the plot, which creates a connection that can be used to continue the series. A character will rise, fall, tumble, soar, and live an actual life with the main plot being more of a backdrop. The best comparison I can make here is how we go through school. Education and graduating are the overarching story/goal while our social lives and experiences evolve us as living beings.
Let me try to show this by taking the first hero to be introduced, Luke Callindor, and show his tale book by book:
1. Beginning of Hero– This is the introduction where Luke lies to get a mission at Hamilton Military Academy. He is pitted against a Lich and a demonic assassin even though he’s an inexperienced warrior. The overarching plot is hinting at the end, but most of this is about how Luke makes friends and steps into the role of a hero.
2. Prodigy of Rainbow Tower– More of the overarching story is revealed through villain scenes and the introduction of Nyx. Luke’s evolution is continuing with him handling a few losses and learning that being a hero is rather unforgiving. This book also introduces several locations, species, and the magic system of the world. So there’s character development, a further blossoming of the main plot, and world exploration.
3. Allure of the Gypsies– You’ve seen him as a hero, but now it’s time to see him as a ‘human’ being. The main story is introduced and events draw all the heroes toward this path. This is also where you learn more about Luke’s past, which is a way to give a character depth, history, and a fresher outlook. His personal subplots get a few twists here too. I recommend avoiding the straight line subplot because real life is rarely so simple. Things that are tend to be boring.
4. Family of the Tri-Rune– When you have a long series and multiple heroes, it helps to give them breaks from time to time. Not remove them entirely, but have them step to the side and focus on a subplot. That’s what happens with Luke here. He still gets his scenes and has a presence, but his role here is exclusively subplot and ‘sidekick’ to the character who is the focus. This prevents him from becoming stale, overexposed, and shows how he works when he isn’t the main hero.
5. The Compass Key– Events from the previous book have left Luke emotionally unstable for a bit. This is where he does some soul searching in the face of the overarching story hitting its stride. An item is needed to combat the main villain and access corrupted areas that he feeds off, which is the focus of the book. Luke and the other champions spend time coming to terms with their destiny and trying to figure out how to work as a team while their enemies have been united for years. From here you can see how a series can get strength from character developing off and around each other. It creates openings for future subplots and, in one book’s case, an entire story revolving around a character’s decision.
6. Curse of the Dark Wind– The most recent book ends up pushing Luke into the spotlight and gives him a chance to shine brighter than the others. Each character gets a book like this, but Luke does get more due to him being around since the beginning. A trick to keeping this interesting is to not always think you need your characters to be the ones doing the saving. Luke is infected by a curse and struggling to survive while the others are searching for a cure. So while the story is focused on him, Luke is more in a ‘defiant damsel in distress’ role. This is another way to keep a long series going. Put your characters into a variety of roles to flush them out and make the reader excited about what you will do next.
To be honest, there are characters with more intriguing evolutions than Luke, but he has the longest running one. As you can tell, I put a lot of faith in this part of the story and the associated subplots. You can even say that the overarching story is secondary and not the driving force of a long series. It’s the characters and how they grow, which will connect to a reader and keep them going. Many stories draw out the question of ‘what will happen to the characters next?’. For a longer series, it might be more beneficial to evoke the following question in a reader:
What will this character do next?
I have Beginning of a Hero on my Kindle app right now. The series intrigues me, and I can’t wait to dig in. Here are some ways you can contact and follow Charles: