12.45: Structuring a Series

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

Before you can decide on a structure for your series, you may find it helpful to decide what kind of series you’re actually building. We talk about a few of the available options, and how each of them affects the structure.

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Take a book that doesn’t have a sequel and write plot ideas for five sequels.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, by Christopher Hastings

11 thoughts on “12.45: Structuring a Series”

  1. I’d love to see more episodes breaking down some of the more popular series ideas. I was begging for more at the end of the episode, especially with the Star Wars esque series structure from the original episodes as it seems to be not only popular but common with today’s audience.
    As for serials, I thought we saw a subtle change with Harry Dresden over the Dresden Files as he goes from loner to depending on people back to loner. I found the same with the Mercy Thompson series as well.
    Temple of Doom is my favorite Indian Jones movie, probably because I was terrified of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
    And your podcast has is its own series. I’ve listened to almost every episode until season 8 (I’m on episode 18 I that season) in the past five months and I’ve seen Dan really blossom from the new author who cracked a lot of jokes to becoming confident. The difference in quality of content jumped when Mary was added, adding a fresh different perspective. Brandon has become a better moderator and Howard still likes to say blow it all up.
    Thank you all for being you all. :]

  2. I’m looking forward to reading the transcript for this episode. As usual, insights about writing I don’t get anywhere else. Thanks!

  3. The talk about iconic heroes being characters that don’t change finally brought into perspective something that’s bugged me for a while now.

    In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the thing that seemed to bug people the most, even worse than the infamous “nuking the fridge” incident, was Indy marrying the girl at the end. And I think this touches on the reason for that. As an iconic hero, his character is not supposed to change, especially not in such a significant way, and when that happens, it feels like a betrayal of the promises made to the audience about his nature as an iconic hero.

    1. Something I’m curious about is whether a story or a series of stories could be character-driven/based, with an iconic character. Or does character-driven story require the character to change?

  4. Hi. I was wondering if the series has to be novels or web comics? I’m asking because I have several ideas for multiple series of novellas. Has a series of novellas been done before? Would publishers interested in this sort of thing or would it be better to go indie?

    Another question was hoping to be answered but was not is: when you are writing a series can you have a standalone books between arcs as breathing space (trilogy 1 / standalone book / trilogy 2 etc.)



    1. Novels, webcomics, short stories, novellas, even poems! You can have a series of any of these, really, and people have. Publishers, I think, are more likely interested in things that fit their publishing format (novels for the book publishers, short stories for the zines), so novellas, stand-alone or in series, are probably a harder sell for them. Indie is more flexible, although you may run into the pricing expectations (novella? That’s short, so prices may be low).

      As for interspersing series and standalone — sure. I know several series have done this kind of thing. The Liaden Universe (r) has several arcs and stand-alones. Which does lead new readers to ask where to start, which can be confusing because there are several possible “starting” points.

      1. Thanks ‘nother Mike for responding to my questions. I really appreciate it. Also thanks for pointing out the pitfalls of having a standalone book in the middle of a series.



  5. As I was listening I my thoughts went to a quote by game designer Sid Meyer, creator of the Civilization game series, as he was talking about developing the next game in a series:

    “We’ve talked about this one third, one third, one third rule, where there’s one third of the new game that’s still got that core mechanic, one third of maybe brand new ideas that we haven’t tried before, and then one third that’s refining some things that could have been improved a little bit from the last game.”

    I think this holds up for story writing to. when planning the next in a series:
    keep 1/3 the same (preferably the things the audience loves)
    refine or develop 1/3 of the elements of your story (character growth etc.)
    use 1/3 new things (new villain, new obstacles, new ??)

  6. To be continued? The original fearsome foursome take a long look at how you set things up to write a series. They start with a quick foray into the various types of series, then dig into the protagonists in various kinds of series, and the process for creating a series — start with a vision of the end, lay out the big picture, then chop it into pieces? Imagine the world and characters, then pick out a few stories to tell there? Write one, then lay out the rest? Don’t forget to keep track of what doesn’t change (the Same!) and what does (the Different!), and what keeps your readers coming back for more. As well as what you are going to add each time to make it better than we ever could have imagined. Read all about it in the transcript, available in the archives and over here:


    And don’t forget the cliffhangers!

  7. You guys probably here this a lot, but I am beyond grateful for your podcasts. There is solid advice here delivered in structured doses that are memorable.

    Big fan of all your work! Cheers from Sri Lanka.

    Some guy who aspires to be like you,

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