Story outline in relation to a series

Question: I currently envision the story I'm planning to write as a 5 books series and was wondering how the outline would apply. Each book has its own inciting event, complication, climax, and resolution, however the main character throughline, character relationships, etc are all part of the larger story and don't advance until later. So I guess my question is how would I outline the plot elements for the first book? If it helps it is a "hero's journey" story with a sci-fi setting.

Answer: Even if your main character's arc does not reach its climax until later in the series, you will likely find that it needs to have an arc in each book.

For instance, you say you have a climax and resolution in Book 1. Great. But that means the main character is going to have to make a choice at the climax about the right way to achieve the goal for that book. Maybe he doesn't change - maybe his choice is to stay steadfast, and that's the right choice to achieve that goal. But that's still a choice, and the reader needs to see him pressured to make the opposite choice. Otherwise, the protagonist has no inner conflict, which means the reader can see well ahead of time what choice he/she will make, which makes for a less exciting climax.

make your climax interesting, you want your reader to have no idea what choice the main character will make - which means there must be some inner conflict.

So, the climax in the overall throughline in each book should be accompanied by a climax in the main character throughline, where the main character's inner conflict is resolved - so far as that book is concerned.

Of course, you may also have a main character arc that stretches over the entire series, just as you may have a series plot that does the same.

One way to structure the series is to think of each book as an act in the series story. So the main character's arc will be divided into stages - one per book. Each stage is an event or sub-arc in his/her journey, and each sub-arc can have its own beginning, complication, climax, and resolution.

The same is true for the other relationship arcs. Maybe they become more significant later in the series, but you want them to start somewhere. You want to tease the reader a little so he wants to find out what happens with these relationships in the next book. So you create an arc for each relationship that stretches across the series. Each arc passes through stages (events) and each stage is broken into smaller stages (events).

Hope that helps.

Comments for Story outline in relation to a series

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Plot and chapters
by: Collette Anderson

Hi Glen and Good afternoon: Once again I am in need of some help.

1.My story is about three females with different personalitites and they all shall come into a new beginning that with many conflicts to keep them at bay, I need help in figuring what voice to carry out all of this.

For ex: With one of character no 1. I may start a chapter with her in the first person sense, and if its at all possible when I start up with her again am I allowed to use the third person sense, if not then why.

Please help me to understand the difference and (2) I seem to be running to of words another ex: character #2 I may began a chapter by saying, She walks into the kitchen and suddenly realize that the small window by the brunch area is now open and last night before going to bed she closed it and set her alarm. Then I run out of phrases to began the next paragraph or am I to just tell the story of what she did next. ( I know that sometimes I make a big mountain out of something so minute and I wish I could pull away from this habit, but its me I guess.

Response to Collette
by: Glen

1. If you write from the point of view of several characters, you must make it clear to the reader whenever you switch to a new point of view. If you start one character in 1st person and then switch to telling their perspective in 3rd person, the risk is that you will confuse the reader. I'm not saying it's impossible - just more of a challenge than you may need to take on.

2. You may not like this answer. But I recommend you find some authors whose style you admire and spend some time copying out a few of their chapters. It's dull work, but it will greatly enhance your sense of style, of how to structure your sentences and phrases, how to describe action and perception, etc.

Outline question
by: Anonymous

I am writing a trilogy, is it better for a writer to outline the entire trilogy before they start writing the first draft of the book? I already have the series arc and the 3 individual arcs for the plot already.

re: outlining a trilogy
by: Anonymous

How detailed an outline you create in advance is up to you. There are pros and cons.

On the one hand, a more detailed concept of what happens in the sequels helps you to foreshadow or set up events and characters in the first book that will be important later. It makes it much easier to write the sequels when the time comes. And it helps you create narrative drive, in that you can create suspense in the first book so the reader will want to buy the sequels to find out what happens next.

Also, if an editor wants to buy your first book, knowing that you have some ideas for sequels is a small plus in case the first book sells well.

On the other hand, the danger is that if you spend too much time outlining sequels in great detail, you won't get the first book written. Also if the first book doesn't sell, that's a lot of time and effort wasted.

I think it's a matter of finding the right balance.

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