WRITING THE SERIES – THE TIMELINE
As a fiction writer I have spent a lot of time learning the art of writing, including how to write a series. It was not as easy as I thought it would be. There is more to it than simply having a good story: there is developing a character across several books, finding a setting that offers enough variety and deciding on the proper timeline. Today I would like to discuss timelines.
What is the timeline for your story? Will it extend over generations, last for just one lifetime or only a few weeks? Will each book start where the last book ended or will the reader pop back into the character’s life later down the road? These are questions writers have to ask themselves when starting a series.
Some writers develop a series and basically freeze the main character in time – James Bond is a perfect example of this, he has been about the same age since the novel Casino Royale came out in 1953. This is very helpful for the open ended series – one that can go on as long as the writer chooses to write it – these can be mysteries where the detective solves a new case in each book. The reader is there for the mystery and the writer doesn’t need the character to go through much growth or to age. Other writers have the character age in real time, if it took three years for the next book to come out that is how much older the character is. For both my series there is only a slight gap in time, the next book starts not long after the last book ends and my characters age accordingly.
Other series have a definate end and the writer knows that from the moment the first word is typed and they know how many books they will write until they get there, Each book has its own story and the series has a general conflict that the characters are working on over the many books. The Harry Potter series is a good example of this.
Knowing what the timeline is helps the writer in developing the characters and the story. If the series all takes place over a two year period you can keep the character around the same age, living in the same location and hanging with all the same people. However, if the series will take place over two decades you will need to write some of the secondary characters out of the story and introduce new one. Doing that will give the reader more of a feeling of time passing and be a more realistic story.
Tell me, do you prefer a series that takes place over a short period of time or takes place over decades like those that follow a family sage?