Keep Your Readers Coming Back: Create a Series

by Patience Bloom

There is a good reason why many of us binge watch shows: the comforting anchor of family or community within the series. Whether it’s Blue Bloods or Homeland, viewers become invested in the characters inhabiting a certain world. While stand-alone books are perfectly fine and even necessary, your readers might want to fully immerse themselves–beyond those 250 pages–in the universe you are creating. This is why you should consider generating a series of linked stories. Not only will this signal a commitment to more than one book, but also it could compel you—the writer—to engage more fully with your own stories.

Here are some tips to help you begin imagining your new series and getting it down on paper (computer):

Find a hook or family: Maybe a maternity ward, a group of survivors, or an intriguing family. You could set your story in an interesting place: a resort, a city, a small town. Whatever your interest, think about the juiciest element to glue your stories together. Often that can mean family. Or pregnancy, a ranch, a detective agency. There is no limit and no bad idea. Well, there are ideas that don’t excite readers as much. It all depends on finding a way to captivate your reader.

Bring on the continuing characters: One way to pique a reader’s interest is to give them fun, complex, and lovable characters. This fosters greater intimacy within the series and the reader will wonder if certain characters will get their stories. Does your series have a matriarch or patriarch who anchors the premise? Or is there a thematic element—babies!—that keeps us turning pages?

Add the unexpected: No community is perfect. Put some skeletons in the closet. Perhaps someone dies unexpectedly or isn’t all good. Put us on an emotional roller coaster. By the end of the ride, we will want to go again. I would even say that it’s the skeletons that cement our attachment to a series. As an example that will date me, Dallas had more skeletons than a morgue (sorry, I edit romantic suspense), but this is why I had to keep watching. Scandal is an excellent show for, well, scandal. It’s those crazy, deep dark secrets that keep viewers tuned in.

Where is the black sheep? Every series needs black sheep, people without that halo. If all the characters were amazing, you’d have The Brady Bunch (dating myself again), which isn’t a bad thing if the editorial requires this. But just think about the villains, the characters who might be a bit off. Readers love them. They keep the protagonists on their toes.

Keep the story going: Create a multi-book story arc. Was a murder committed, one that doesn’t get solved in one book? While romance readers do like loose ends to be tied up, think about this season’s Criminal Minds, where Dr. Spencer Reid is in prison and the BAU deals with this while still solving a central crime. Now, I’m not happy Spencer is in prison, but I’m okay with not having this problem resolved immediately. My focus is on the more crucial case those lovable characters are trying to figure out.

There are more tips toward creating a successful miniseries, and this is where I invite you to research those authors who have written unforgettable dynasties for us. You know the authors. It’s up to you to read, analyze, and imagine to your heart’s content. We look forward to hearing what you come up with!