Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pitfalls to avoid when writing a series

Not having to hit deadlines can be helpful and harmful. It's harmful for all of the obvious reason, if the deadlines mean nothing, you'll take them lightly and they'll ultimately have no meaning. However, not having to make deadlines is helpful in it's own way.

You don't have rush, you can make everything perfect. I'll give you an example, say that you're writing a series and that you have a deadline to write each installment. You might have, maybe, five saved up and you have a good general outline, but as you write things you notice that you could have foreshadowed something better or you notice a continuity error or character flaw.

Basically, you can fix errors in and strengthen your story before it's time to release it. Maybe it's because I'm a perfectionist but I love finishing the entire series before sending things out so that I can edit everything and keep the continuity straight.

Keeping the continuity straight is an important part of a series and so is keeping your characters straight. Here is a list of common pitfall and how to avoid them.

1. Flanderization
Maybe you've heard the term before, maybe you haven't. Flanderization is when a character devolves into a caricature of their former selves. They had depth, they were a fully fleshed character but for some reason they become one-dimensional and lose all of their depth.

For example, imagine Jane Smith is an animal rights activist who works as a doctor and enjoys taking long vacation with her friends. There's a reason she loved animals, because she was saved by rescue dog when she was child.

By season three, Jane's entire life revolves around her protesting for animals and everything she does is about animals. There's no mention of her being a doctor anymore or taking long vacations with her friends. Everything in her past is about animal and it goes beyond all rhyme and reason.

A very good way to avoid this is simply to be aware of the problem. If you notice that your character is starting to become one dimensional than take a look back on how they acted before and make sure to keep it in mind as you portray them.

2. Plot holes
Plot holes are a common problem of long running series and of series that use more than one writer. If you do create the entire series before publishing it like I do, you can check for plot holes fairly easily, but I'm certain that most people don't do that.

Here are a few tips to avoid plot holes:

- Revist old installments. If you're not sure about something, look it up and keep the continuity straight.
- Don't break the rules of the story. Whatever you established earlier is the law, no exception.
- Keep your characters in character.
- Be mindful of what is going on elsewhere in the story. They're not doing the last thing since they were since they were on the screen and might intersect with what is happening on screen.
- Have other people look over your series. Having a fresh set of eyes will catch things that you might've missed and things that made sense to you as the author but what a reader needs more information for.

3. Pacing
Pacing can be an enormous problem in a non-episodic series. Though there can be pacing problems in anything, but I'll just talk about series with an overarching plot.

You're going to have one main plot for the entire series that has to last for the entire series. In order for it not to be resolved immediately, you'll have major plots in each individual season, but how do you know if it's not just being derailed or not?

I'm not sure if there's a sure way to know, but try to pay attention to the season plots. Are they just being pulled out of thin air, or do they advance the overarching plot? If they're just pulled out of thin air, it's probably just plot derailment.

Of course, going too fast is also a problem. The characters need to overcome obstacles on their way to resolving the main plot, not just learn about it, waltz in and solve the problem.

Some other pacing problems to avoid.

- Presenting the series problem too late. People want to know what the series is about early on, while mystery is allowable and red herrings, try not to keep your audience in the dark for too long.
- Long, drawn out fight scenes. Other than the climatic battle, fight scenes shouldn't run too long and they shouldn't be bogged down by too much dialogue.
- Action is far and few between. If your characters go to the coffee shop, they shouldn't spend half the episode there talking about the plot.

Any questions or comments? Leave one below or email me at

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