Wednesday, October 2, 2013

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Fiction Series

Writers Digest recently ran a helpful article by Karen S. Wiesner, author of Writing the Fiction Series. The magazine allowed me to reprint a portion of that article here. The advice, though not specifically targeted to children's series, certainly applies to them. For the full article, go to:
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One of the main concerns writers should have when planning and writing a series is consistency. But what does it mean to be consistent? It’s more than just keeping track of the character names, physical attributes, family trees, and locations in a notebook or Excel spreadsheet; it’s about presenting the logical facts that you’ve established in a series in a consistent manner, from book to book. Why is this so important? Because even if you (or your editor) don’t notice your inconsistencies, the fans of your series most certainly will—and they’ll definitely call you out on it. If you keep your facts straight and avoid inconsistency mistakes, your readers won’t be pulled from the story–and will stay hungry for more.

Below, Karen S. Wiesner discusses the five major red flags of inconsistency—and what you can do to prevent them in your own fiction series. 

[Excerpted paragraphs]
2. Changed Premise

This category includes information given in one episode that directly contradicts information in another. In a series this can be fatal. If your book series has a Changed Premise from one book to the next, readers will lose respect. If anything concerning character, plot, or setting conflicts with something that was previously established, it would fit under the Changed Premise heading. If you alter the structure or foundational facts that were previously set up in the series, even if you do it for a very good reason, you’ve changed the premise for the story, and readers will notice. If you can’t find a way to make something believable within the entire scope of the series, you’ll lose readers, perhaps for the remainder of the series. As an example, if your vampire can’t see his own reflection in the first two books in the series, but in the third he desperately needs to be able to see his reflection in order for your plot to work, you’ve changed an established premise. You’ll have to come up with a solid bit of plausibility to get readers to accept the change. If you create a world in which no outsiders are tolerated in the first three books, yet in the fourth one a stranger shows up and is ushered into the heart of the community with open arms, you’ve changed the premise of your series.

3. Technical Problems

While problems with equipment and technical oddities were often an issue in science fiction shows like Star Trek and The X-Files, (and may be in your series, too, if you include a lot of technology that must be realistic), this kind of inconsistency can also deal with inadvertently or indiscriminately jumping into alternate viewpoints or changing descriptions of characters or settings because what was previously mentioned has been forgotten. If your character always speaks in a certain dialect and suddenly stops in a subsequent book, that’s a technical problem. Names and jobs can also accidentally change through the course of a series. If your character’s hair color or eye color changes, or if he was 6’5″ in the first two books in the series but drops an inch in later stories, you have what may be considered technical problems.

For instance, in The X-Files both main characters used cell phones throughout most of the series, but the phones were used inconsistently, in ways that forced the viewers to question the logic. In one episode, Mulder was trapped underground in the middle of a desert called Nowhere—was there actually a cell phone tower nearby that allowed him to get good reception? In other cases Mulder and Scully didn’t use the phones when they should have, and in each of these cases, it was convenient to the plot and for the writers/creators that they didn’t use their phones to call the other to their rescue because it would have solved the plot of that particular episode too quickly.
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What additional tips can you give writers?


  1. Maybe it's too early in the morning for me, but I'm only seeing two of the five mistakes and would love to read the rest. Is there a url for these? Thanks!

  2. Hello Heather. Glad you visited my site. Yes, there is a URL - right at the top of the article. Writer's Digest gave me permission to reprint only a portion of it with a link to the rest. You'll see the link at the end of my introductory paragraph.

  3. Thank you for bringing this article to my attention. Definitely has me mentally scrambling through my series...

  4. I follow your ways and really cover my writing big mistakes thanks for share it study abroad personal statement .

  5. Thank you, Allen, for being such an enthusiastic visitor to my website.