Here’s the thing: When a fledgling author sets out to write a series, she never knows whether it will wind up being a single book or ten or twenty. My very first series, for example, only lasted for four books – even though I had planned (and hoped) to write many more.
So how does an author plan for overarching series plots and character paths, even while making sure each installment of the series follows its own plots and subplots to their conclusions?
In my case, at least, in involves a lot of planning, but also the willingness to write by the seat of my pants when things don’t go they way I expected/planned/proposed. Because characters, like living people, often don’t do what they’re supposed to do – much less what following the paths a mere mortal like me had outlined in advance.
Case in point: the main character’s love life. In the Witchcraft Series, Lily Ivory is a natural-born witch who has been hiding her powers for most of her life. She was born into a European magical system, but raised in her grandmother’s Mexican magical tradition. In the series, Lily started out with a flirtation with Aidan, a powerful witch, but then falls for a sexy “mythbuster” named Max. Aidan has too many secrets, and eventually Max made Lily doubt herself when he couldn’t get past the whole witch thing. (As an aside: I grew up watching old reruns of Bewitched, and even as a little kid I couldn’t understand why Darren didn’t get over himself and support his wife’s talents and interests. I mean, really, Darren?)
While I was trying to figure out a way for Max to redeem himself, a man named Sailor walked onto the scene. A brooding, chain-smoking, motorcycle-riding, hard-drinking psychic with a major chip on his shoulder. (Also, he’s a teensy bit handsome). And without my intending it, sparks flew. In Sailor, Lily found someone who is her mental and magical match, and who supports her –and her powers. Their relationship was rough, at first, but eventually Sailor began to cherish and value her, just as she is. In Sailor, Lily found someone with whom she doesn’t have to hide – and isn’t that what we all deserve?
Who knew? I swear, I didn’t plan it! But, for me, this is the magic of the writing life. This is the Muse visiting, the inspiration for a story that seems to come from beyond. When the characters become so real they feel like friends; their dialogue flows as if I’m watching a movie; and they attend to resolving their own trials and tribulations. It’s really quite amazing – and it keeps me addicted to writing!
Of course, if I “respect the Muse” it means I have to alter my own silly, merely mortal outline, and roll with the new storylines. Often I have to alter the way I had planned to resolve the plot, or how to intertwine character arcs. Luckily, I write fiction, so I get to make things up to explain what just happened.
In Bewitched and Betrothed, Sailor and Lily have already decided to take the next step in their relationship, and are engaged to be married. But with a supernatural force threatening their beloved San Francisco, and Lily’s grandmother’s coven in town, will they be able to escape Alcatraz and still make it to the redwood fairy circle to exchange their vows?
That last part, I did plan in advance. But getting there was a wild ride!