Fiction series are hot right now; readers love them, and they create an instant audience for future books you'll write. The key to writing a successful series that readers will stick with is consistency. Fans get comfortable picking up the next book in a series if they can count on the same characters and environment from book to book. Mix up the details, though, and you'll start to get bad reviews and lose readers. Here are five basic mistakes that kills a series' consistency.
1. Changing a Premise
If something is a rule in the first book in your series, don't suddenly change the rules four books in without a very good, life-changing reason. If your main character is smart and snarky, don't let her show up one day with a sweet and forgiving personality. Your vampire can't suddenly develop the ability to see himself in a mirror after three books of being invisible in one. Changing a premise makes your readers feel cheated; they thought they knew the world they were enjoying, but it will look like you didn't value details they thought were important.
2. Plot Holes and Contrivances
If you've written your way into a corner and the only way to get out is to write a completely new bit of ground into your story, it's a patch that readers won't stand for. If your male main character is so scarred by the death of his wife that he'll never love again, then you introduce a hot new woman in book three that he suddenly falls for, it will read like a cheap contrivance. Your characters should always act according to their personality. Technophobes don't fall in love with the latest smart phones and those who are childless by design don't suddenly fall in love with triplets without a whole lot of back story to prop up that change. Find a different way to fix your plot holes, or start all over again.
3. Technical Details
Always keep a series bible to make sure all the details in your books remain consistent. If cell phones won't work in the big box store in book one, don't magically allow them to work in the same store in book three. Keep track of the hair and eye color of every character, no matter how small, as well as children's and spouse's names. Tall or short? Thin or fat? Silly or somber? Pick one, then make sure you stick with it.
4. Continuity Issues
Get a simple pocket calendar to keep track of when your books are set. It's easy to remember to only release a Christmas story in December, but how many birthdays did your character have last year? How many summer picnics? Did you set a book in the spring after that one? It may seem like a small issue, but it's one that many readers will keep track of and remark on.
5. Don't Leave Unanswered Questions
Remember the television series Lost? Millions of readers were angered by the series finale because it left so many unanswered questions. (Whatever happened to Vincent, anyway?) A series is often set up to explore the answers to a list of questions or situations. Make sure you've covered all the bases by the end of the series. Did the detective finally find out who killed his brother 20 years ago? Did the on-again, off-again romance have a satisfactory conclusion? Did everyone in your generational family saga get their just desserts? Tie up those loose ends.
Keep the Faith and May The Force be with You!