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A Novel of World War One 
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Writing a Series

by Anne Perry


 
What are the special considerations that face the writer of novels in a series?
mystery writersFor an author there are certainly great advantages. In a series one can explore a familiar setting and develop characters in far more detail than a single story allows. The challenges are to vary the plots while still keeping them natural and making each novel seem to spring from the previous one, or at least follow it sensibly, and to think of something new to do with characters and relationships that does not look strained.
mystery writersOther kinds of variety must come into play as well. For the series hero or heroine that may mean a change of job or somehow dealing with a different kind of crime-perhaps, as I have done in the past, moving from simple domestic murder into the political arena, with higher stakes and more personal danger. Or it may involve an occasional change of scene-forays to other countries. (In this manner I have transported my series characters from Victorian England on short trips to Europe and America.) Also, one can add another dimension by linking present crimes to the past at home or abroad, or by having characters coming into the story from places even farther afield—Africa or India for example.
mystery writersI am currently struggling to capture a sense of 1892 Alexandria for Thomas Pitt, the protagonist of one of my series. This new setting will involve only a couple of chapters, but it should convey a sense of a wider and more exotic world. The plot concerns the cotton industry and the British occupation of Egypt, among other things.
mystery writersA large cast of subsidiary characters is also useful, if you like them enough to bring them back a few books later and thereby expand relationships begun earlier. This allows the author to provide an answer for "whatever happened to...?"
mystery writersThe most difficult thing is to sustain the primary relationships without letting them become monotonous and losing any immediacy. There has to be tension of some sort, but not repetitious misunderstandings or irredeemable quarrels. That really is a difficult challenge, and I am still searching for elements that deepen relationships and mirror real life—at the same time that they create a compelling story.
mystery writersIf I find an answer to that, I’ll send up a rocket flare! Meanwhile I’ll keep looking.

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