Warning: Spoilers for the Torian Warrior Series ahead!
One question I get asked a lot about writing a series is, “Do you have a plan for each story?”
My answer to that? “No!”
But let me tell you why, and maybe shed some light on what it actually means to not plan a story, the challenges that come with that, and the fun that can be had when you have no idea what your characters will do next.
Before I started writing, I did some reading up online about the best way to create a story. And one thing that came up was planning and pantsing.
Anyone who writes, knows these terms, but for those who don’t, planning – well that’s pretty self explanatory. It’s where you plan out each chapter, event, arc and so on. You know what will happen next, you have a set road your characters are on, and you stick to it.
Pantsing – That’s where you have no plan, and just let the characters lead the way. Sitting down and writing by the seat of your pants, letting it all pour out to see where your creativity takes you.
Now, I don’t want this piece to come across as me endorsing one or the other. This is just my own personal method and reasons why I write the way I do.
When I decided to write my first story, The Realm, I had a pretty detailed plan for each chapter. I knew exactly who the characters were, what they were going to live through, their arcs, their personalities… Everything.
Then I actually started writing, and those little buggers on the page took on a life of their own. By the third chapter, I was so far off plan, that I knew there was no going back.
What started out as only two main characters, morphed into four, with five supporting characters, and a world that wasn’t so much as a thought in the original plan.
But I ran with it. I let the characters lead the way, and I’m glad I did. Once the characters came to life, there was no stopping them from telling the story in their own way.
Now, this was great when I wrote the first book. And it even worked for the second book.
But when it comes to writing a series, like the Torian Warrior Series, well… That’s when things get a little… Messy.
When you create a whole universe full of characters, locations, different races, families, villains, friends and so on, you need to be able to keep track of them all. Now for a planner, that’s fine. Writers who have profiles for each character can just look over and know everything the readers learned about a character or location in the story so far. But for a pantser like me… It means hours of searching through five books for those two sentences about a supporting character in book one, who, by book five, plays a much larger role.
Did he have dark hair or light? Were his eyes green, blue or brown? I know he had a scar, but where was it?
So what do pantsers do when that happens? I know for me, I have to go back and read all my work from the beginning, to find that tiny bit of detail.
And I know many of you will say, “Why not use the find function on the program you write on?”
Very good point! IF I’d used the characters name, I could. But when you search five books, each with around eighty thousand words, for something like “Eyes” or “Hair”, You get a whole lot of results.
Why do I not create these profiles now, to make going forward easier, I hear you ask.
My answer is this. In a series that spans five books, each one has a cast of around fifty characters. That’s a lot of profiles to write up. And, as a pantser, I never know who is going to make an appearance in the next story. Why? Because I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next story.
But, with all that work, there is still something so… fun. So magical in learning about the story, the characters and the drama as the words appear on the page. I never know what to expect.
I’ve had a few of my beta readers ask me things like, “So if X and Y are going to hook up, what does Z think of that? I bet Z is going to be pissed!”
Who knows! Maybe Z will be pissed. Maybe Z will get so angry he or she will become the villain in the next book. Or maybe, they won’t care. I honestly have no idea.
Now, you must understand that there is a small amount of planning in writing a series that even someone like me needs to follow. For example, I know who will be in the following book. I know who they will end up with. I know the general idea of what the drama will be about. Usually that involves something that the characters need to overcome, and I know that I need to stick to what was already written in previous books.
In the Torian Warriors, in book one – Lilly’s King – The biggest threat to them all were the Spinners. The main goal for the characters, apart from falling in love (I do write romance after all) was to win against the evil bad guys.
I had no idea how they would do that. I had no idea how it would all intertwine together. But I let the characters lead me. I got into their head (or rather I let them into mine) and we took the journey together.
By book 2 – Tulip’s Ghost – what was the worst enemy of the characters in book one, has now become a cute, lovable pet that is a hero to the characters in a big way. By book four, that same Enemy, then friend, now becomes the damsel in distress.
Did I know it would turn out like that. No! I start a story with the two main leads, the arc they will go through, and the challenge they will face. Everything else… well, it just happens.
So many characters came into existence in the blink of an eye. Characters who only get a passing mention in the first book, but who will have their own stores in the future.
One such example: Do you remember Daka, from the first book? In Lilly’s King, he is mentioned a few times, but in such a small way, that many will forget about him.
Daka is Oris’s medical Sub commander. He helps Lilly save Keel’s leg. Remember him now?
Well, he has his own story in the future. And the thing is, he came to life in the moment of me writing that scene.
Remember Bor mentioning that he spoke to a Human Camp leader named Jonah?
When I wrote that, it was just a random, faceless, inconsequential character who meant nothing. Remember him. Trust me. Because by book five and six, you will know who he is, and just how important he is.
Did I know that this random man would be important when I wrote book one? Heck no! I just needed a random name for a guy, that’s it.
By book five…. He has a far more important role.
And that is what I LOVE about not knowing what will happen next.
That is something you will find a fair amount of in the Torian Warrior series. A simple name dropped only once, that seems to mean nothing, will one day become a vital part of a future story. Simple, meaningless details, that seem to only be there to fill the world building, turn out to be more important than you think.
As the universe expands, as we learn more about the characters, the world they live in, the things they believe, we find that, as with humans and Earth, there is so much more to this alien race than we first thought.
And I use the word “we”, because as I said, I’m discovering it all right alongside you.
And for someone with a vivid imagination, there is nothing quite like writing a scene, reading it over, and thinking… “Well damn! That was unexpected.”
So often, I can be heard tapping away at my computer, while shouting, “What are you doing, you idiot! Don’t go in there! Tell someone! Just kick his ass already!” At the characters on the page.
I’m sure my kids think I’ve lost the plot, but that’s just how it works…
At least… that’s how it is for me.