An unconventional series format

Heir

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Dilemma

I have plans for a young-adult epic fantasy series of seven books. The first three of these books are set during an industrial revolution. But from the fourth book onwards, I skip ahead in the world's timeline by 200 years. Now technology is at the 21st century level, and humanity has developed the means to counter magic with science. At this point, my series switches from being just an 'epic fantasy' to an epic science-fantasy.

So, like this:
Books 1-3 = 1850's
Books 4-7 = 2020's (maybe a bit later, depending)

But here's what's even stranger: characters from the first three book are still in the rest of the series despite the time jump, and so the character and plot arcs from before are continued. Of course there will be new characters and plot elements introduced. But the characters that readers cared about in the first three books are still there, and the plot they invested into is still continuing, it's just the setting and dynamics that have changed.

If you know about Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, then think of it like that, but if all the characters from the first trilogy continued into the new one.

The books will always put characters and plot before setting. I would hope that the main reason people read the first few books is because of the characters and plot, so hopefully a shift in setting, no matter how great, wouldn't be too much of a bother.

I already assume that some readers may get attached to elements of the first setting. I'm also aware some readers dislike having their fantasy mixed with science. I will inevitably lose some readers at this point, but I'm not dropping everything they loved, EXCEPT the setting. Of course, by introducing a lot more science, the world will work differently now.

If the reader loved the dominance of the magic wielders, they may be either intrigued/annoyed at the shift of power. Magic is still there, but now it's not indomitable. Now it can be fought. And in some cases, replicated.

I should also mention that science doesn't just suddenly pop up in book 4. With the industrialisation of my world, breakthroughs in medicine and science are all over the place. Science is becoming a very exciting area in my world from the very beginning. By the end of the the first three books, the reader would have been exposed to terms like 'biological weapons' and 'artificial race', and they would hold a very significant meaning to the story. I have numerous technological marvels ahead of their time from the start of the series, so the reader would be aware that science is of significance in this world.

Given all of that, it seems only natural for the world to advance in the way it does. And the conflicts that arise from such a scenario are just too exiting to pass up on. But that doesn't mean I don't have doubts...

Questions


  1. Would you, as a reader, be okay with this? And do you think it would generally go over well with a YA audience?

  2. How exactly do you market this to an agent/editor?
    (When exactly do I tell them? Do I tell them in my query? If so, then how? "After the first three books, the time period changes"? But then I hear longer series tend to scare off agents, let alone one that's doing something like this. But it seems almost deceiving to not mention it. What if they pick it up and find out it's not exactly what they believed?)
I appreciate you reading this. If you need anything clarified, just ask!
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
As a reader I'd be okay, but if I was marketing it I'd look to split them into two linked series.

As to the second - you sell the first book to the agent, not the series (although you can say it has series potential.) if one is interested enough to want to take you on, then you discuss this with them :)
 

allmywires

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I think the first question that jumps out to me is why does the time skip happen (and why are the old characters still around to be in it?) To me it seems as though you're trying to do two things at once, like writing two separate ideas for two series in one. So my question is, yeah, why?
 

Heir

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I think the first question that jumps out to me is why does the time skip happen (and why are the old characters still around to be in it?) To me it seems as though you're trying to do two things at once, like writing two separate ideas for two series in one. So my question is, yeah, why?
The reason for the time skip is because my characters end up in a realm where time moves slower (like a dream), and when they leave, everything has changed. Now that's not the main reason, but it's the reason for why my characters end up in later part of the world's timeline. The actual reason as to why it must be in the future is because of how the world works. Every 200 years a catastrophic event occurs, but it can emerge in any random way. My whole plot is about ending this cycle. The first three books are set when the 'catastrophic' event happens to be nearly apocalyptic in nature. The next set of books would take place just before this next catastrophic event would occur, but this time, the characters would be provided with a second chance to stop it.

If I'm completely honest, part of the reason why I'm doing it, is because I've never seen it done before. And I'm a bit bored of fantasy worlds that just stay the same and never change. And I just happen to have certain things in my world that allow me to keep old characters around.
 

Heir

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I'd look to split them into two linked series.
What do you mean by this exactly? Do you have any examples? Because that sounds like it will help a lot with me trying to market it.
And yeah, I always heard to say it's got series potential, which is what I said the first time I submitted my manuscript. Glad to know that's the right move. Thanks!
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Not sure exactly - but what I thought was something like what King did with The Regulators and Desperation. Same characters, same set up, differing style and approach (one was a Bachman book, one King - I much preferred The Regulators. )
 

Brian G Turner

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I appreciate you reading this.

I'm doing a very similar thing. However, it may be worth bearing in mind the possibility of dealing with them as if they were separate trilogies.

Now I'm researching queries for agents I've discovered that series are actually difficult to sell. Which is madness because the book buying public seem to love them. But publishers are hesitant to risk the investment in more than 2-3 books at a time.

Also, do be aware that fantasy and science fiction are different genres - there is an overlap in readers, but they are still considered different markets. You may find it easier to call your science fiction a "science fantasy" that continues from your original fantasy trilogy.

2c.
 

hopewrites

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As a reader I would find it stretching the band's of credibility if I were not convinced that the crossover characters survived the timeskip by credible means. Magical life suspension, cryotube, species of appropriately long life...
If it feels like the author just snatched up their best marketing characters and shoved them in a black box only to pop up where and when the new plot demands, I'd drop it and recommend to friends they not start.

Linked series are super common and would be an easy sell for this idea. Basically what your saying is that you can do more than one overarching story arc in your world, and why shouldn't you! *despotic laugh*
The set of books in the first time line would be series 1, then you have carryover stuff to series 2 in the second time line, which helps maintain an audience and quickly acquaint readers with the changes made during the timeskip. Repeat et all. Go back and write supplementary fill in time skip stories... whatever you like. The better we readers love the world you've created for our imaginations to play in the more pressure we'll put on you to do just that.
 

Gonk the Insane

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As a reader, yeah, I'd be okay with it.

I don't think I've read anything quite like that before, but the closest analogy I can think of is L E Modesitt Jnr's Imager Portfolio series. The first 3 books focused on a single character. The fourth book, however, is set many years earlier and concerns the origins of the magician's order that exists in the first 3 books (totally different protagonist in book 4). It's almost opposite to what you are planning, I guess - different characters, different eras, rather than same characters, different eras. But it might be worth checking out, and it shows that a series can deviate significantly from the norm and still be a success. I don't know how the author sold the idea to his agent/publisher, but by that point in his career he already had a significant output of published work so was probably afforded more leeway than a debut author might.
 

Heir

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Not sure exactly - but what I thought was something like what King did with The Regulators and Desperation. Same characters, same set up, differing style and approach (one was a Bachman book, one King - I much preferred The Regulators. )
Alright, thanks! I'll be sure to check it out! :)


I'm doing a very similar thing. However, it may be worth bearing in mind the possibility of dealing with them as if they were separate trilogies.
I've thought that may be the case. Do you think then that I should give the first three/trilogy its own ending? As in a solid ending of some sort? That will be very hard to do given how the book is supposed to end, but it's a compromise I'm willing to make if it will make this flow better. My fear with that, is then people get a sense of 'completion' and may feel the need not to read the rest of the series, even though it's not anywhere near finished.
You may find it easier to call your science fiction a "science fantasy" that continues from your original fantasy trilogy.
Do you mean by this that I should call the next part of the series 'a science fantasy that continues from the original fantasy trilogy', or do you mean something different? Sorry, I'm just a little confused by this.
As a reader I would find it stretching the band's of credibility if I were not convinced that the crossover characters survived the timeskip by credible means. Magical life suspension, cryotube, species of appropriately long life...
Don't worry. I'd hate characters for the sake of marketing too. But you will get the impression their story isn't finished yet, which in itself will call for resolution. And yes, they're kept alive by believable means, most of which are explained prior to the fourth book. Immortality accounts for some of it, and time suspension for some others (like an ethereal cryotube/stasis).
Go back and write supplementary fill in time skip stories... whatever you like. The better we readers love the world you've created for our imaginations to play in the more pressure we'll put on you to do just that.
I get the feeling this is one of those things that may only be allowed if my books were to sell well, in which case, I'm sure I'd be allowed to fill in the gaps. Which is good, considering I've got that all planned out as a novella. The alternative is to have a character figuring out what happened in book four, but I prefer the idea that the reader is already up to speed. My only issue with that, is it feels like I'm telling people to read a spin-off to understand the main series.
It's almost opposite to what you are planning, I guess - different characters, different eras, rather than same characters, different eras. But it might be worth checking out, and it shows that a series can deviate significantly from the norm and still be a success. I don't know how the author sold the idea to his agent/publisher, but by that point in his career he already had a significant output of published work so was probably afforded more leeway than a debut author might.
Yeah it's always done as different characters to match the change of setting, which makes sense logically. But in my world, things work out where the old characters are in a new era. And I'm confident I'll need to have some credibility before this is allowed, considering it's a pretty odd move. I may have to break in with a different story initially and build up a reputation of some sort.
 

Phyrebrat

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My first thought was of The Regulators/Desperation as Jo mentioned. This links in with King's Many Worlds mythos and that all his stories emanate from The Dark Tower hub. So I'm kinda pre sold on the concept, anyway.

It reminds me of a theatre rep company: they use the same actors on different plays. Now the hit series American Horror Story is taking this approach using the same character in each successive season but in completely different stories and timelines.

The difference of course is that AHS is jumping actors around, not characters, but they seem to play similar roles in each incarnation of the show. E.g. Jessica Lange is often the anti-hero. Or arch, in any event.

No problem here :)

pH
 

Brian G Turner

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I've thought that may be the case. Do you think then that I should give the first three/trilogy its own ending?

Do you mean by this that I should call the next part of the series 'a science fantasy that continues from the original fantasy trilogy', or do you mean something different?

To be honest, if you're still in the planning stages then it's all too early to worry about everything. Just be aware that you may find yourself needing to sell the first trilogy as a standalone, and that is the second involves futuristic elements, then you may wish to avoid calling it a science fiction if you want it to appeal to the readers of the first.

Don't sweat the details as yet - you still have the first book to write. :)
 

Isingforhim86

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The closest thing I've read to what you're describing was Ted Dekker's Lost Books YA series. In one, a group of teens has to enter into a pool of water in order to enter a different time/our world. I think they were looking for one of the lost books when they did so, but ironically, I believe that they end up as characters inside of it. If you read some of his other books, the colors of there covers allude that they are or could be the missing lost books. In addition, the names and personalities of the characters in them are similar to the teens in the Lost Books series. Is this concept interesting at times? Yes. Not everyone understands what he tried to do, and they end up complaining that his characters are too much alike.

All this to be said, you should try to include terminology inside your second set of books to show that the characters are in the same location at different times, are the same people, etc. The readers who are paying attention will know what you are trying to do without your having to tell them that "Harry and Sally were transported 200 years into the future!" I think that you may also want to try and think about the culture that you are taking your characters from and the one that you are taking them to, and how you can create conflict because of the differences between them. Ted took a bunch of kids who were good with swords and use to danger and put them in a reenactment situation that involved man vs man sword combat. The actors were pretty freaked out, but the kids thought they were fighting for their lives.
 

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