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.