So at the February conference I attended, one of the speakers talked about the idea of writing the same book seven hundred times. In the ’pulp fiction’ categories–romance being the largest–the audience craves their favorite tropes, yes, but they will devour a series when each book delivers on a predictable pattern.
The boxcar children. Nancy Drew. The Dragonriders of Pern. These are all stories I consumed when I was younger with relish. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next one. But looking at the books critically, there’s very little that sets them apart. Every DroP book is going to have a chase, a hatching, a Thread attack, and deal with Wyr politics. That’s why I read the books! If Anne McAffery had diverged into a story about a kitchen maid and that girl didn’t become an accidental queenrider, I might’ve stopped reading.
It took a solid month for this concept to really sink in. I began seeing more and more series in my reading history that conformed to the pattern and some of the advice I’ve been given in the past to write a series began to make more sense.
Enter Powyrworld. I don’t own this IP, but I am allowed to publish within the world and I own the books I release, which is a great deal! An established world with other authors but I don’t have to share the royalties! Powyrworld is a universe with rules and as long as I follow them, I can write anything I want. My straight romance pen name, Anna Morgan, has two books in the Powyworld universe: Dragon Star and Dragon Solstice. Additional books in this series makes sense for her current audience. But I wanted to create a series concept that followed the idea of writing the same book over and over. I needed a high-concept, repeatable, plot device.
Here is that concept:
4 Red Emerald
5 Diamond — a woman
Historically Sentinels were 5 powerful dragons, a court that governed the island independent of the ruling families. They were immensely long-lived, and their fated mates were, too. A Sentinel would pass their gem to their chosen successor and magically receive the entire history of that Sentinel (and those that came before) so the new dragon could continue their work.
Sentinels protected the island from external threats: griffon incursion, witches, vampires, anything that could threaten the fledgling race of dragons on Patomas.
Long, long ago, the sentinels each died out without choosing a successor (each one was killed by the arcing badguy witches) and the gems have remained hidden and unclaimed ever since. The witches were eventually defeated, burned to nothing by dragonfire and a search was ordered for the gems, but nothing ever came of it.
Now a new order of the witches is rising and gems have started calling their new Sentinels.
- Gem calls its new sentinel
- Gem needs to be found — different each way
- Scattered memories/dreams
- Gem is activated/connected, transformation sequence Dragon Version
- When MC shifts back to human, gem is a magical weapon — unique
- Massive memory dump from previous Sentinel
- Gem can help sense/direct Sentinel to the witches
- Each gem has a special power, weapon, and related color
- Sentinel’s fated mate has special secondary power of the same color
- Sentinel’s fated mate can act as a power boost/battery
- Dragons are being attacked by witches, groups of them. Overwhelmed. There are deaths.
- MC is separated from his family or someone is captured, needs to get back/rescue.
- Witches have grown in power/established territory/started something.
- MC is compelled to fight them (by the gem) but isn’t strong enough to win. Gets wrecked.
- Gem activation, MC wipes the floor with the witches in a small skirmish
- Witches retaliate with powerful thing they started/kidnap LI/otherwise march on a clan.
- MC epic fight sequence.
- Family/clan is secure from the threat, everyone is safe.
- MC has drive but no purpose in life, feeling like their prime is being wasted.
- Gem doesn’t appear to be the life-changing event that it is, at first. MC mistakes its importance.
- Plot/Gem forces MC to confront how weak he is, how strong the Sentinel in his visions are. Insert desire for power here.
- Mastery of the gem power comes at a cost. Doubts. Perhaps this was the wrong path to take.
- Reversal when MC beats a small witch group. Sentinels were made to serve the dragons of Patomas. He has a driving purpose and all the power he needs to enforce the peace.
- Sentinel memories now bring satisfaction, goal orientation, future desire, map out a path of honor and respect for the Sentinel to walk.
- He was made to be a Sentinel. Of course this is his life’s purpose. He is fulfilled.
Between these three arcs you may notice that the books have almost written themselves. A convenient side-effect of needing to include specific repeatable scenes is that those scenes are already established in the narrative, leaving far fewer holes to fill in the outline. Threading these three arcs together provides a satisfying story, and layering a romance on top of that only fills in more of those outline gaps. Without knowing anything at all about my characters, antagonists, or even the world, I can produce a rather thorough outline on the series concept alone. It will be the individual book characters and details that make each one unique.
This concept is very high on my to-do list this year. As of writing, I’m outlining Magic!Preg for Crista and my’s co-write, but if there’s time while she’s drafting, I’m going to give this gem dragon world some attention and start hammering out the first book’s outline. I’m extremely excited about these dragon stories, and if the readers eat them up, so much the better.