Wednesday 7 March 2012

What Makes A Series A Series?

I found myself very confused the other week.

I read a blog post asking about book series. Do we like reading a series or prefer stand-alone books. Likewise with writers; do you prefer writing series or do you prefer writing stand-alone?

When a series is mentioned, what stories instantly come to mind? Harry Potter? The Dark Tower? Sherlock Holmes? These would be correct. A series is a collection of stories that follow the same character through their journey. We followed Harry Potter from book 1 to book 7. We followed Roland and crew in The Dark Tower from book 1 to book 7; Sherlock Holmes had numerous cases to solve.

All these are popular series'. But a series doesn't just have to follow the same characters. Here's a definition of a fiction series:

'Fictional series typically share a common setting, story arc, set of characters or timeline. They are common in genre fiction, particularly crime fiction, men's adventure and science fiction, as well as in children's literature.'

I only bring this up because when I commented about how I write my series (a set of stand-alone stories set in the same fantasy world) whether or not this was classed a series came into question. I began to panic as I was planning on marketing my work as a series, but what if wasn't a series after all?

I had to do some homework.

Luckily, to my relief I discovered that I am, indeed, writing a series. To be a series doesn't necessarily have to follow the same characters. A series, as stated above, is a set of stories that have something in common, be it characters, setting, story arc, etc. Because my stand-alone stories are set in the same fantasy world, where law is the same in each, as well history, currency, etc, it comes under the classification of a series.

Phew! Relief.

However, this doesn't apply for every genre. If you write thrillers, just because you have a collection of stand-alone books set in London doesn't mean you have a series on your hands. If that was case, then every book to be set in London could be part of a series. No, these books would have to have something else in common. Hence we go back to the original idea of following the same characters throughout.

What are your thoughts on this???


  1. It's kinda like the Chronicles of Narnia, right? The characters weren't the same in every book. But the setting was.

    Thanks for this post. Totally got me thinking :)

  2. As long as they are related, they are a series. Simples.

  3. Great post! I don't mind if perspective shifts in a series, but I really do think it depends on the series. Sometimes I get really irritated when things switch around too much- like I can't get attached to anyone. But if it's written well, I love it.
    Sometimes I've read books that I wish were part of a series, and sometimes I read series and wish they were just one book.

  4. I feel like that cat WHUT? I've never thought about it really. Obviously CJ Sansom writes a series and I look forward to a new Sheldrake adventure come Christmas. But then you had the 'Dark Series' so called. These came from the pen of a publishing phenomenon and now almost totally unknown 'Peter Cheyney'. These particular six books all had the word 'Dark' in the title somewhere, but had different secret agents working for the same spy chief - usually but not exclusively so. I think Martin is right, but there's an element of wriggle room

  5. It definitely helps if there is a consistency in the tone and characterization(s). I think this is what differentiates the blockbusters from the ones that fail to capture the public imagination.

    BTW, my favorite series is Sherlock Holmes :)