Two different animals. One’s golf, the other’s a game of pool. I’ve never written anything but straight-up novels. Haven’t even managed to write a decent short story. Novels however, I can do. You start at the beginning, grab a handful of characters, throw them into trouble and then just keep the camera on them as they race toward the end. Give them some authentic motivation/personality and they will take the plot where it needs to go, surprising you in the process. There will be some bad guys. There will be a subplot or two. A couple of fight scenes, some downtime where they talk about their families and hobbies and become real people, and then a rousing finale that wraps the whole thing up. 90,000 words, say three or four weeks of writing, and you’re done.
Now, a series. Hootenanny. How do you write one of those? I’m not talking a trilogy, or series of novels or nothing. I’m talking an actual series, like what you get on TV, like what Charles Dickens used to do. A written tale that’s delivered in installments.
I’ve been trying to figure it out. First, you have to widen the scope of the narrative. Wide angle lens, no tunnel vision. You need to have an ensemble cast. Say five important characters that the audience cares about, and then a good dozen or so supporting dudes that flesh out the world, each with their own mini-subplot and character. You need the plot to be a slow burning one, that develops in subtle steps as threads are interwoven. You need it to be character driven, because nobody will stick around for a plot that complex alone.
So. Create a world, a setting. Come up with two or three groups that are in conflict. Find the moment where that conflict comes to a head, and start there. Then trace the repercussion of that instigating moment wherever it may go. Each group reacts to it differently, and you interlace scenes with each group so that we constantly shift from one to the other. There needs to be a balance between plot development and character development, which need not be mutually exclusive. The characters should reveal themselves through pursuit of the plot, but may also benefit from carefully chosen personal scenes that are solely about them and don’t touch on the plot itself, so that a ratio of say 80% plot scenes and 20% character development scenes can be hit.
Now, you can’t just have people reacting to that one instigating moment of original conflict, powerful as it may be. You need to reflect how random life is by introducing new plot elements that force new reactions.
So, for example:
Say we’re creating a science fiction series. You have three groups:
- Mercenary bounty hunter crew
- World government agency that hires them
- Criminal underworld