Series are popular, and for good reason. Readers can continue their love affairs with their favorite fictional heroes and heroines across multiple books, but how do you, as an author, keep your characters fascinating?
Fascinating characters grow and change. There are many books on character development, but none that specifically address character development across a series. I’d like to share an approach I took with my series, the Double Helix.
One of my favorite books on the craft of writing is The Writer’s Journey by Christophe Vogler. It is a step-by-step guide on how to use myth-inspired storyteller paradigms, specifically “The Hero’s Journey”, to develop both character and plot. The Hero’s Journey has several stages, and I’ll describe those stages with the help of the first hero in my life, Luke Skywalker:
· Ordinary World: We first meet Luke Skywalker in the humdrum of his daily life on his uncle’s moisture farm
· Call to Adventure: Luke yearns to enroll at the Academy, like his friend, Biggs
· Refusal of the Call: But he refuses the call (or rather, his uncle refuses the call for him)
· Meeting with the Mentor: While chasing down his errant droid, Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi
· Crossing the First Threshold: The deaths of Luke’s uncle and aunt drives Luke over the threshold, and he takes his first step into a much larger world
· Test, Allies, Enemies: At a cantina in Mos Eisley, Luke and Obi-Wan meet Han Solo and Chewbacca. While on the Millennium Falcon, Luke begins his training as a Jedi
· Approach to the Inmost Cave: Is there anything more ominous than getting sucked into the Death Star by a tractor beam?
· The Ordeal: Luke, Han, and Chewbacca rescue Princess Leia, and in the process, wade through multiple firefights and nearly get compacted with the garbage. Luke witnesses his mentor’s death at the hands of Darth Vader.
· Reward: The princess is saved
· The Road Back: Luke is now where he had wanted to be. The Rebel Alliance is his new Ordinary World.
· The Resurrection: While taking a suicidal run at the Death Star, Luke hears Obi-Wan’s voice. He trusts the Force, turns off his targeting computer, and fires missiles into the Death Star’s core
· Return with the Elixir: Luke returns triumphant, and his victory promises a (brief) reprieve for the Rebel Alliance
The power of a paradigm is that it is recognizable and it resonates with people; hence, you’ll recognize elements of “The Hero’s Journey” in many books and movies. The question remains, how do you apply “The Hero’s Journey” to a series? The answer, which is easier said than done, is to apply “The Hero’s Journey” within each book and across the entire series.
The following sections will contain some spoilers for my novels, and I apologize in advance, but it’s hard to make the point without giving a few things away.
In Perfection Unleashed, Danyael Sabre is rudely yanked out of his ordinary world when he discovers that his genetic material was used as the physical template for Galahad, the perfect human being. He refuses the call; in fact, his first instinct is to get Galahad out of the country, but his friend (and mentor), Lucien Winter, persuades him to investigate his connection with Galahad. Danyael meets many allies and enemies, and in the process, approaches the inmost cave, uncovering the identity of the family that abandoned him many years prior. He is almost killed (an ordeal, certainly) but is saved (a resurrection), and in turn, he saves Galahad, thereby bestowing the elixir of perfection on the world.
Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, the second and third books of the Double Helix series, have “Hero’s Journey” arcs for Danyael within each book, but the structure of the arc across the series is more relevant to this discussion. To view the series arc, we first need to take a closer look at Danyael Sabre.
Danyael is an alpha empath. He can control emotions, and he can heal through absorption of injury. However, all powers have a dark side. He can hurt others by transferring physical pain, and the miserable memories of his childhood, amplified by his empathic powers, can drive others to suicide. Put simply, Danyael has the power to heal or kill with a touch.
In Perfection Unleashed, Danyael’s chosen life as a doctor in his ordinary world is disrupted by the discovery of his connection with Galahad. Despite the shocking revelations and traumatic situations he endures, Danyael refuses the call to fully embrace his empathic powers. He will not hurt others under any circumstance, whatever the provocation.
In Perfect Betrayal, Danyael crosses the threshold when he unleashes his empathic powers and drives his attackers to suicide in order to save his best friend and the woman he loves. Allies and enemies take on different faces as they maneuver to manipulate Danyael for their ends. At the end of the novel, Danyael approaches the inmost cave. He can choose himself and his freedom by leaving Galahad to die. Is Danyael a healer or a killer? What choice will he make in the silence of his soul?
Through many ordeals in Perfect Weapon, Danyael finally learns to accept his empathic powers, his ability to heal and kill, and to utilize either or both as the situation calls for it. When terrorists attack Washington D.C., Danyael leads a super soldier army to defend the city. As a reward, he is given a chance to begin the road back (which will start in book 4…)
Each book had a “Hero’s Journey.” Danyael got from beginning to end, and something in him changed along the way. But when you take a step back and look at the overall series, you’ll see that each book represents smaller portions of the “Hero’s Journey,” and there is a larger “Hero’s Journey” that connects the series. The larger journey is also the more subtle. Most readers may miss the forest for the trees, but it is important for authors, to map out that greater journey to ensure that our characters and the novels within the series grow to their full potential.
I invite you to check out Danyael’s journey in the Double Helix series, and would welcome a discussion of the Hero’s Journey taken by other famous characters. (Anyone up for a discussion of Harry Potter?)
Jade Kerrion unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series. Drawing rave reviews for its originality and vision, and described as “a breakout piece of science fiction,” Perfection Unleashed, and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, are available in print and e-book through Amazon and other major retailers.
About The Double Helix series:
His genetic code sourced from the best that humanity offers, Galahad embodies the pinnacle of perfection. When Zara Itani, a mercenary whose abrasive arrogance exceeds her beauty, frees him from his laboratory prison, she offers him the chance to claim everything that had ever been denied him, beginning with his humanity.
Perfection cannot be unleashed without repercussions, and Galahad’s freedom shatters Danyael Sabre’s life.
An alpha empath, Danyael is rare and coveted, even among the alpha mutants who dominate the Genetic Revolution. He wields the power to heal or kill with a touch, but craves only privacy and solitude—both impossible dreams for the man who was used as Galahad’s physical template.
Galahad and Danyael, two men, one face. One man seeks to embrace destiny, and the other to escape it.
The award-winning Double Helix series, consisting of Perfection Unleashed, Perfect Betrayal, and Perfect Weapon, will challenge your notions of perfection and humanity, and lead you in a celebration of courage and compassion. Science fiction, urban fantasy, and action-adventure readers will enjoy this thrilling roller-coaster ride as it twists and turns through a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution.
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