The Series Series, Part 3: What Constitutes a Series?
There are many different ways to categorize a series. One common way is as a set of stories that feature the same character(s) in different circumstances. Each book offers a new adventure, a new plot, a new problem to solve, but the characters – or at least the main protagonist(s) – remain the same.
Series built around a unified character or characters may be sequential, meaning they provide an ongoing story arc and are designed to be read in order – such as Ramona and Beezus or Harry Potter or our Little Bo series – or they may be stand-alone, in that each book seldom makes reference to past events and the characters seldom, if ever, change or age – such as the Magic Treehouse or Nancy Drew books, or our Very Fairy Princess and Dumpy the Dump Truck series.
Some series have a unifying theme – such as the Dear America and American Girl series, both of which are built around the theme of American History, with each individual book featuring a different set of characters in different periods of history. Some have a unifying concept, such as science (Let’s Read and Find Out series), scariness (Goosebumps), or setting (The Chronicles of Narnia).
Some series are open-ended, and can continue as long as there is demand for more, others are designed to have a finite number of books, such as in a trilogy. This is usually the case with series that have an ongoing story arc – for example, our Little Bo series was always conceived as having four books, each of which would reveal what happened to one more of Bo’s missing family members.
Many character-driven series were not created as a series, but rather one book at a time, with subsequent stories being written by popular demand. Others are intentionally planned as a series from the getgo – though in today’s publishing world, sales numbers are still the determining factor with respect to how many installments a series can sustain. With this in mind, if you choose to plan a series these days, it’s best to ensure that each installment can stand alone as a satisfying and conclusive read, even if it is part of a sequential storyline.