One of my fellow Pen & Cape Society authors is about to embark on her first series, which is a challenge for any writer. All of us start with a single book, but sometimes that book tells a story, but not necessarily the whole story, and that’s why many authors choose to turn their books into series.
So how does one go about making a series? Well, to start, you have to have your common elements. Your stories may take place in a common world, like in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books, or there may be common characters that bridge between the stories, like Taran, Eilonwy, and Fflewddur Fflam in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.
With the Just Cause Universe, I’ve endeavored to create a synthesis between the two types of series. The world is common, almost a mirror of our own, and all stories take place within the same setting at different points throughout the seventy-odd years of history I’ve defined as the Parahuman Age. The major events of the Just Cause Universe world are more or less the same as ours, with the exception of parahumans in the mix. Examples include a squad of American parahuman commandos that fought first in Europe and later in the Pacific during World War II; the way Just Cause was mixed up in the events of Woodstock and the New York City Blackout of ’77; how numerous Just Cause heroes perished in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center when their headquarters was destroyed.
The characters are common as well, as virtually every story I’ve written ties into three generations of a single family that begins with Colt and Dr. Danger during and after World War II, their daughter Pony Girl and her husband Audio in the Seventies and Eighties, and their daughter Mustang Sally and her soon-to-be husband Mastiff in contemporary time. Will there be another character thread for their children, should they have any? Count on it.
One of the things I’ve discovered over the years of writing series is that sometimes the most minor characters and throwaway plot points from earlier books can perfectly drive sequels. For example: we first meet Destroyer in Just Cause and learn that he has history with the superhero team that goes back to 1977. Day of the Destroyer tells the story of that first meeting. In The Archmage, a throwaway character in the form of a Homeland Security official will become the driving force behind the book I’ll be writing this summer, called Castles, as a junior senator with an axe to grind against parahumans.
I’ve found other outlets for future stories within those I’ve already written. In Deep Six, the main character’s daughter exhibits powerful parahuman abilities at the end of the book. Will she be attending the Hero Academy in a future volume when she’s of age? You bet. Say an average superhero lives for seventy years and is active for twenty of them. Nobody accomplishes just one thing in his or her lifetime. There are always more stories to be told.