October in Writing: Writing a Series…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optThe stand-alone serial nature of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ has given me the platform to get a lot of story ideas to the page, jumping around the Victorian era and the lives of Darkwood and Hobbs. However, as certain events have taken place I have had to put together a time-line to avoid having continuity issues. Deep into writing the second run I have come across another issue which I haven’t had to worry about before–balancing the elements which make up ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’.

The first run was essentially a ‘mystery of the week’ style format, and easily introduced Darkwood’s aunt and uncle, the long-suffering reluctant ally and eventual friend of Darkwood and Hobbs, Inspector Duggan. The series ending with the introduction of the first story arc element in ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow and Fire’, which served as a prequel and continuation of the series, and established the two main players vying for Darkwood’s guide stone–the Shadows and the Hellfire Club, and one of its villainous members, Lord Balmoral.

In my head, Darkwood and Hobbs have more friends and allies, and they need time to appear and become established as reoccurring characters. There are also returning villains, and not to forget the ‘deeper mystery’ of what happened to Darkwood’s parents, and the history of the guide stone. Plus there are certain character and relationship developing events for and between Darkwood and Hobbs. All of these has required some placement or element of story arcs within the stories I have planned. This has also started to dictate the stories I want and need to write.

I have found myself with stories for the Shadows, the Hellfire Club, the Mandarin, the Mole-men, Duggan, Captain Carstairs and the Homeguard, and the Mirror Man. It’s gotten a bit crowded, and I already had mystery of the week stories planned, and I still want the series to be as approachable as possible, with as many parts being able to serve as a starting point for new readers. With that in mind, I have decided to make each run 10 parts long. I seem to have enough story ideas to cover that. Plus I do like a round number. I have a bit of a thing for symmetry.

This has meant that one of my stories will get introduced into the first run, ‘The Rat King’, and ‘The Conspiracies of Shadow and Fire’ will get renumbered from 9 to 10. I have ‘The Rat Kinf’ is plotted, and is a nice little monster story. I have plotted out ‘The Book of Lies’ [was under the working title ‘The Other Darkwood’ for anyone who has been following the titles I have talked about previously], and pretty much fully plotted out ‘The Legacy of Shadow and Fire’. I have decided that all the mythology and the deeper mystery will be contained in stories that have ‘Shadow and Fire’ as part of the title, and will be in order throughout the series. I didn’t like peppering details and revelations throughout mystery of the week installments as I think it had the potential to make the series convoluted and difficult to follow. There will probably be one or two per run of stories, so about 6 in total and I can plan out the arc for finding out about the stone and what happened to the Darkwoods. That only leaves ‘The Rise of the Dragon’ [working title] to be plotted.

An unfortunate thing of having too many stories in my head and not enough on paper is that the notes I made about four years ago for ‘The Rise of the Dragon’ are not very helpful, so I’m having to come at this as a new project and basically start again from the ideas stage. ‘The Book of Lies’ was in a similar state, and was painful to put together, but it worked, so I’m sure ‘The Rise of the Dragon’ will get there. When these are all fully plotted I’ll throw myself into writing them one after the other. They are all short-stories, and I want to keep them lean and tight as much as I can. I haven’t had any really short ones like in the first run at all so far, and I think I need them in the second run.

So, writing a series has been problematic, but keeping me on my creative toes. I have a lot of respect for TV writers now, that’s for sure. It’s nice to think that when this is done there will be 20 installments of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ out in the world. 40 more to go and Darkwood will have the same amount of tales as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The scary thing is I probably have enough ideas to do just that! I might need to speed up on the writing though or I’ll be doing them into retirement… Although that’s actually a nice thought.

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