Planned Booked Series Timeline...

by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Question: I have a planned Trilogy where the timeline is not like, for example, Harry Potter (each sequel is approximately a year later). Instead, the second book takes place about twelve years after the first and the third book book takes fifteen years after the second. My question is: Is my timeline appropriate for mainstream novels?

Also, my main character(and overall story protagonist) for all three books starts the first book as a just-barely adolescence (12-13 years old), a young adult in the second book (24-25 years), and a middle-aged man in the third book (39-40 years of age). My main questions are:

(1.)If the first book is a young adult novel, will the second two be adult novels? If so, would that confuse my audience due to the main character going through different inner conflicts in all three books?

(2.)Should I make all three books either an Adult or young novel, so the audience would not be confused?

Answer: First, there's absolutely no reason why you can't have gaps of years between book. An example of a similar series would be Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series.

Second, I wouldn't worry too much about whether the second and third books should be YA or adult. Your challenge is getting the first one written and sold. That's a hard enough task to worry about for now, and you may find in the writing of the first book that your original idea changes somewhat.

However, since you ask...

If you are lucky, and you find the sales of the first book are strong enough that the publisher asks for a sequel, you will want to bring your existing readers along with you.

So I definitely would not write the first book as middle-grade fiction, even though a 12-year-old MC is typical of a middle grade book (because kids like to read about characters a little older than themselves).

Whether you write the series as adult or YA depends on the types of topics and issues you want to cover.

YA can cover darker themes than middle-grade (or treat the same themes more darkly) while still omitting the kind of mature content of a book for 20-somethings.

For instance, books like Huckleberry Finn and Ender's Game have children as MCs but are aimed at an older audience. Again, the Earthsea series is another example in that the MC, Ged, starts out as a boy but is an old man in the last book, yet the series would be classified as YA.

It's not that YA readers always have to read about characters their own age. They enjoy reading about adults too, as long as the themes and topics seem relevant to them. But there are certain issues and topics that adult readers are interested in but teens would not be into (middle-age crises, messy divorces of couple with no kids, growing elderly, etc.) and certain topics school boards might not buy for YA readers (graphic sexuality).

If you want to cover issues that teens wouldn't relate to or that the library market wouldn't buy for them, then write the series as adult fiction. There are adult books that have children as MCs (e.g. Riddley Walker).

Comments for Planned Booked Series Timeline...

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Mar 28, 2013
by: Terrell

Thanks for the info. It makes a lot of sense and I appreciate it. That was my main concern was with the time period gaps.

Mar 28, 2013
Re: Your Post
by: Todd Rogers

Another thing to consider when writing YA or Adult is the language you'll be using during the course of the story.

If your MC, as an adolescent, encounters adults that are "hard edged" (notice that I COULD have said "hard ass(ed)" except for the conscious choice of words when referring to adult characters) then the language that those "hard edged" adult characters use might be a contributing factor as to how dark the story throughline might become as it unfolds.

In the Harry Potter series, the Battle Of Hogwarts which happens in Book 7, "The Deathly Hallows", has Molly Weasley facing off against Belltrix LeStrange just as in the movie version (Pt. 2).

J.K. Rowling made it a point not to use profanity of any kind at any point in the story no matter how dark things were, or who was involved, which is why when you watch the aforementioned duel between Mama Weasley and Bellatrix LeStrange, Molly's line "Not MY daughter, you BITCH!" seems almost gratuitous even though it was likely not intended.

As such, you have a conscious choice as to the kind of language your characters intend on using, which can pretty much answer any lingering questions you might have as to how to whether you're writing YA vs. Adult fiction.

Good luck to you!!

Mar 29, 2013
by: Terrell

Thank you Todd Rodgers for that, cause I always wondered about that as well. So profanity is a "no-no" in young adult books? Or if used, to show very sparingly?

Mar 29, 2013
by: Glen

My understanding is that publishers in the UK and other English speaking nations don't object to an occasional profanity in YA, but it hurts sales in parts of the US where school boards, libraries, and book clubs would get in trouble with parents if they bought books with anything stronger than "he swore."

Mar 30, 2013
One More Thing....
by: Terrell

I read through the Harry Potter SignPost Explanation you gave elsewhere.

Can you explain the concept of the domains:

Situation (external state)
Activity (external action)
Manipulation (psychological change)
Fixed Attitude (psychological state)
and how to apply them to plot structure?

Mar 30, 2013
re: your post
by: Todd Rogers

Yes, if you are writing YA then profanity is to be used EXTREMELY sparingly (like only once, perhaps twice in the entire book).

There are other ways of implying profanity without actually saying it, whereby you can likely get away with a few of those in the book, but again sparingly.....

For instance, you could say, "Todd entered the crowded room and immediately caught sight of his nemesis, Carlos, who flipped him the bird in mock greeting."

Almost everyone knows the two words that are implied by the act of flipping the bird. So this would be appropriate for one time use in a YA novel.

In an adult novel, however, profanity used strategically rather than simply gratuitously can give the reader great insight as to how these two characters feel for each other.

"Todd entered the crowded room and immediately caught sight of his nemesis, Carlos, who flipped him the bird in mock greeting".

Todd smiled. *italicized* Yeah, fuck you too, asshole.

The italics without quotation marks implies a thought, so the reader can imply through the strategic use of this rather harsh profanity (fuck likely being one of the harshest profanities that can be uttered) that there is no love loss between these two individuals, and the crowded room descriptor implies others saw the exchange even if they had no reaction to it whatsoever.

I believe that there are myriad colorful metaphors that can be called upon to make a point that takes the place of the harsh gratuitous profanities without either excluding them or overusing them.

Mar 30, 2013
by: Terrell

But why is that such a big deal when young adults are engulf with profanity since age 11?

Mar 30, 2013
To Terrell
by: Glen

My experience has been that the strongest profanity one ever hears is on school playgrounds. Yet so many adults persist in the belief that if they can shield children (or in the old days women and children) from such language, the children will not use it when they grow up and society will become more polite.

I've never seen this effort work outside of small, authoritarian communities that resemble the town of Stepford and its famous wives.

When people can't express their feelings with the full range of the English language, relationships become rather shallow and dishonest, in my opinion.

As writers, we should always strive for honesty, so it's sad that in this case there is a cost.

Mar 30, 2013
Thank You
by: Terrell

Thank You all for your insight, it has been a big help.

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