Please welcome this week’s guest to the Showcase.
Keeping a Series Fresh
I didn´t plan to write a series. I had an idea to write a book about a young girl who longs for travel and adventure and ends up going on a trip of a lifetime to the United Arab Emirates. My story is loosely based on my visit to this amazing country. It took me three years to write the story. During the next five years, as I looked for a publisher, I began to write another adventure story featuring the same character who travels to Spain, another country I enjoyed visiting. I eventually found the perfect publisher and after my first book, Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, was released, she asked me if I had ideas for another book featuring Amanda and her travels. I was happy to report that the first draft of another adventure was almost completed. The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, Amanda has travelled to England, Alberta, Holland, New Mexico and places along the Danube. Her next adventure will be in the unique and exciting country of Malta.
Writing a series has proven to be fun. It’s been great getting to know the main characters, Amanda Ross and her friend Leah Anderson. But I worry that the stories might get too predictable. I know my readers expect some things to be familiar, but each book should come with surprises to keep it fresh and entertaining.
The Amanda Travels series of books are stand-alone and can be read in any order. Coming up with new settings is easy for me as I love to travel. I often travel with an Amanda adventure in mind, taking tons of notes and pictures to be referred to later when writing the story. Coming up with a storyline that is original and exciting can sometimes be a challenge.
So what do I do?
Here is a list of some of the things that help me get fresh new ideas
- Hang out with young people to learn what they get excited about and new trends
- Watch TV shows and movies that feature kids, or not. I once got a great idea while watching Midsommer Murders.
- Read books in a variety of genres including the classics and recently published novels, both adult and children´s books.
- Look at photographs to remind myself what got me excited, scared and intrigued when I visited the place. Photographs can spur many memories and ideas.
- Read newspapers and magazine articles, clip and save interesting and bizarre stories. Go through the stack of clippings once in a while, there is usually something that will pop out and generate a new idea or two.
- Listen to conversations in coffee shops, on the bus, on the street, on the beach – wherever. Conversations between adults, kids, or teenagers can inspire excellent ideas. Writers should be great at eavesdropping.
- Ask “what if”. What if Amanda did something she knew she shouldn’t? What if a character said something they wouldn’t normally say? What if she walked down that alley? What if…?
- Make sure every book tackles at least one new problem or issue, sometimes more than one. If Amanda looks for a missing vintage novel in England, she can’t be looking for another book in Spain.
- Introduce some intriguing new characters in each book. Even minor characters can create interest and keep the series from getting stale.
- Bring back a character from a previous book, especially if that character was popular. I introduced Caleb, a classmate, in the New Mexico book. He was such a popular character that he will return in the Malta book.
Amanda stays the same age in all the books but I try to show different sides to her and have her grow as a person. The more she travels, the more she learns about herself, other people and the world in general. Once in a while, I have her do something totally out of character. Sometimes she even surprises me!
These are some things that help me keep the series from getting stale and predictable. Although I write for children, I believe these ideas could be of help for any series regardless of the target readership.
Do you have any other ideas to share? I would love to hear about them in the comments.
Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Richard.
About Darlene Foster
Canadian author, Darlene Foster, writes the Amanda Travels series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves travelling to unique places where she encounters mystery and adventure. Readers young and old enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain, England, Germany, Holland and Canada. Her short stories have won prizes and a number of them have been published in anthologies. She has also written a bi-lingual book for English/Spanish readers. Darlene grew up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in working hard to make her dreams come true. Over the years she held wonderful jobs such as an employment counsellor, ESL teacher, recruiter and retail manager, and wrote whenever she had a few spare minutes. She is now retired and has a home in Spain where she writes full time. When not travelling, meeting interesting people and collecting ideas for her books, she likes to spend time with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot. She believes that dreams do come true.
Her books include: Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain: The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England: The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube: The Sounds of Music, Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind, and Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady will be released in the spring of 2021.
Darlene can be reached here:
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