Writing a series

I recently did a post about my outlining process for novels, but I decided to do a write up of how the whole thing works on a series. The short version is that it works the same way. I’ve only really worked with the three act structure and don’t know how well other methods of plotting can be expanded, but the three act structure handles longer stories nicely.

From a high level, the three act structure divides a story into three parts (obviously). The first part, comprising of about the first quarter, is the preparation. Something has changed, and the protagonist truly begins their journey. The second part, comprising of the middle half of the story, is about the protagonist becoming who they need to be. They learn. Perhaps they gather allies. They grow. Then, something happens. Maybe they make their attempt at achieving the goal only to fail. Maybe the enemy comes against them. Regardless, the second part ends when the protagonist is as far as they can be from achieving the goal. The third part is the protagonist clawing their way to the goal. The most variable thing about this structure is the length. Particularity in longer series, you will see the second part grow significantly. In trilogies, one book will be devoted to each part. The next two paragraphs will examine Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time, respectively. They will contain spoilers, so skip them if you want.

Let’s look at Lord of the Rings. Fellowship is about Frodo learning about the One Ring and trying to hand the task over to others perceived to be more qualified. It ends with Frodo fully accepting his role as Ring Bearer and leaving the company. Meanwhile the rest go after Merry and Pippin. The Two Towers is about Frodo and Sam moving to Mordor while the rest of the party gathers allies. It ends at a low point. Frodo is captured and Sauron’s army is moving against Gondor. Return of the King is about rescuing Frodo and getting to Mount Doom while the rest struggle to defend Gondor.

Wheel of Time is a much longer series, and as I stared before, most of it is the second act. The first act is comprised of the first three books. Rand is struggling with his identity. Book 3, The Dragon Reborn ends with Rand in Tear having drawn Callandor and accepted his role. The “middle” is made up of the next eight book. Rand strives to unite the world and the White Tower goes through its own struggle. It ends with Book 11. Rand loses his hand and leans that his madness is of the worst kind and will probably kill him. Egwene, now the leader of the White Tower, is captured and it seems like the division will never be mended.

Overall, these two serieses touch on the major plot points of a single story. Obviously, it’s not a step by step guide, but it does, at least, provide insight into a longer, multi-volume story.

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