You Gotta Get A Gimmick!

Hi there, guys and gals!

Sorry to delay World-Builder Friday, but my husband and I were out enjoying the 4th of July festivities with friends and somehow the time just slipped away from me. But here I am for a special World-Builder Saturday, and this time we’re going to talk about how to get ideas for a series.

Last time, I mentioned that I am a series kind of gal. I can’t help it; when I create characters I want to spend as much time as I can with them. But I have no intention of writing the next War and Peace, so I have to think of good places to split my fiction into halves, thirds, quarters, or even more slices of pie. Often, I find myself using devices to center each novel around a similar point.

For example: the Harry Potter series centers itself around the school year. Every book begins with some variation on “Harry finishes up summer vacation. Harry prepares to go to Hogwarts and something interesting happens to set up the adventure for the year.” Each book ends with “and Harry goes home to spend another uneventful summer waiting for school to start up again.”

You know, it occurs to me now that if nothing else clued you in to Harry Potter being a fantasy series, that would have. No sane kid sits around saying, “Gee, now that I’ve got no homework to do, I’m bored! When can I go back to school?”


A Sleeping Student, Drawn By Me
This image is courtesy of my amateur efforts in ArtRage Studio, using a mouse and a cheap stylus. If you want to use it on your site, feel free! If not…well, I can’t say I blame you. I think I need more practice! 😉


Making my point, though, Rowling has a brilliant gimmick that allows the audience to wait with baited breath to see what happens to Harry each year. There are conventions of each novel. Who will the next Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher be? Who will win the Quidditch matches next year? Not to mention all of the plot threads she creates in each novel, many of which she leaves deliberately unfinished to whet the reader’s appetite for the next installment.

But novels don’t just have to be broken up by time period. They can be separated by special events – in the Eragon series, each book heralds the birth or introduction of a new dragon, in a world where very few are left. In cases of ongoing series, the separation can simply be single stories within a genre. Many mystery series use this gimmick – same detective, different case. Or, as in my series that begins with Into the Sky, it can be a series of special items. In the world of Taralin, a prophecy states that five sacred stones gathered together can open the door to Astraea, land of the dead. Each book will have my heroine chasing after one of the five stones. Each stone is a different type of gem, and represents different traits that are showcased throughout the book. Each stone is found in a different part of the land, giving a unique cultural flavor to each adventure.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure that there is some sort of cohesiveness running through your series, linking each book together. Not only will it make marketing easier, it will also give your readers certain cues to look forward to, and questions to ask themselves and each other as they eagerly await your next book.


Building A Website Around a World

When creating my website, I had the idea of making a place online that was not only about my books, but about the worlds I’ve created. I find world-building to be the most interesting part of writing, and I love making up new sets of rules explaining how the universe works, and populating these settings with characters who have a unique take on their universe. While I respect the heck out of the people who write stories that take place in the real world, and who can make them fit seamlessly into the non-fiction of our lives, writing in our world just isn’t my passion.

So I’ve decided that my website will be a portal to different realms in my imagination. Going forward, I intend to first create a sub-domain attached to this site for my Shadows Universe. It’s the one I’m most familiar with, as I’ve spent the last four years visiting and exploring it. I also intend to write blog posts – on something that hopefully resembles a regular Friday schedule (yay for impending weekends!) – detailing how I world-build, and putting together a list of resources for others trying to get started creating their own fantastic lands, worlds, and galaxies.

I’ll close today’s post with a quick tip for the very newest newbies:

If you’re looking for cliches, common story and character archetypes, or just basics on how stories are similar to each other, check out TV Tropes. If you’re looking for a great way to build a story idea, take two or three tropes at random, and see what you come up with that fits the criteria. Just a word of warning, though: reading tropes is really fun. I mean addictive levels of fun. Take a breather if you notice you have 20 tabs open at once.

For those new to my site, welcome! I’m looking forward to giving you more cool world-building tips next Friday. And keep watching this site – there will be some cool updates coming down the pike…just as soon as I learn how to design them!