The Series: a Definition and the Glue

The series has become popular for readers, authors, and publishers, for different reasons. Readers want to continue dwelling in a particular world, like Middle Earth, or want to continue following the quests of particular characters, such as Harry Potter. By contrast, authors enjoy expanding upon worlds they have already created, frequently making the writing of multiple books easier; they do not have to reinvent that world for each book. Publishers desire a series because it frequently translates into more book sales. One reader buys all the books in the series rather than just one book. This article defines a series and what binds the individual books together.

A series is a collection of books. To be a series, technically speaking, the collection must be more than five books. Naturally, one book cannot be a series. Two books is a duology, and three books a trilogy. Four books are termed a tetralogy, and five books a pentalogy. Although there is some disagreement over these terms, a “series” for purposes of this article refers to multiple books.

In a series, the books must have something connecting them, otherwise the books are simply independent. One connection is a cast of characters found in all the books. For example, book one could introduce a family of eight. Each subsequent book is primarily about one family member and only secondarily about the other family members. That cast of characters could also be a group of friends or group of co-workers or some hybrid of family, friends, and coworkers. Another connection is a location. For instance, a hotel. The first book could be about the clerk at the front desk. The second could be about a person working for housekeeping, and the following books might focus on various hotel guests. The cast might be different in each book, but the setting or location of every book remains the same: the hotel.

Another connection for books in a series can be the plot. The series could be about serial killers, where each book is dedicated to one serial killer. Or the series could be about treasure hunts, where individual books are about individual hunts. Notice that the location would be different in each book and so would the cast. Of course, the connection can involve more than one of these elements of plot, location, and character. A book series could have all three elements. For example, two teenage boys live in a small town, and they solve crimes. In every book, the protagonists are the two boys (characters), solving a specific crime (plot), around town (location). What might distinguish a series, however, is to find other forms of connection beyond these common overlaps of plot, location, and characters. What other story elements can serve as the thread through each book in a series?

Emotion in Stories: how to Create it?

Every great story has emotional moments. In the movie, E.T., Elliott is heartbroken as his friend, E.T., is dying in his house near the end of the story. He was nervous when he first encountered E.T. making noises in the shed. He was anxious and excited in the end, when peddling E.T. to his escape ship. Would this story have been great with these emotional moments absent? As Karl Iglesias says, “When was the last time you saw a movie ad that said, ‘Well-structured, great plot points, fresh dialogue?’ No. What you see more often than not are emotional blurbs, which are promises of the emotional experience you’ll feel by watching the movie. They’re selling emotions because that’s what audiences want.” (Writing for Emotional Impact, 2005) Yet, writing a story capturing elusive emotions is often considered difficult. Is it though?

Imagine Mr. Jones undergoes a heart surgery, where his future health is uncertain. Now contrast the next two scenes. Version one: in the next scene, the story skips a year and Mr. Jones is fishing in the Bahamas. He really wants to catch a big fish. There is no reference to his health. Or version two: the story moves to a scene where his wife converses with his daughter. His wife expresses her anxiety about how she will support herself if her husband passes prematurely. She conveys her sadness of retirement plans that will probably never occur. Her daughter then shares her own sorrow that Mr. Jones may never see his grandson graduate from high school. Then his other daughter calls, learns the news, and starts crying. In the second version, the character reactions to the event (the heart surgery) all provide emotion to the story. How to create emotion? That’s how: show character reactions to an event, almost as if the narrator is interviewing each character to find out what she is thinking and feeling.

In our everyday life, the people around us emotionally react to events: e.g., news of a death—sorrow; news of a marriage—joy; and news of a financial problem—grief. Imagine taking an action story, which is usually loaded with events. Imagine then adding a scene after each of those events throughout the story, where that scene focuses solely on how various characters react emotionally to that event. The author most likely will have infused a great deal of emotion into the story.

Now, too many of these scenes creates a soap opera, and the story may very well lose a large male audience. Too few of them creates an action piece, and will likely lose a large female audience. A balance between action/events and emotional reactions should be sought. E.T. achieved this balance, appealing to an audience of both genders.

Character Flaw as Subplot

Do we really want to read a story where the protagonist is perfect? For example, Jill is a shining example of virtue, never doing anything unethical or illegal and never breaks the rules. Why would we really want to follow Jill in her world for very long? Recall being back in high school and hanging out with your friends at one of their houses. Did you talk about the Jeff at school, who got good grades and responsibly worked at the local grocery store? Or did you talk about Doug, who got drunk and so sexually aroused at a party last week that he tore off Kathy’s clothes in the hallway to her horror? Not only is Jeff boring as a story character, but he’s unrealistic. On a spectrum of virtue on one end and vice on the other, most people fall in the middle. Most people are afflicted with flaws, even though they don’t want those shortcomings. Thus, flawed characters create more realistic stories. Not enough has been said, however, about the mechanics of creating a flawed protagonist.

The character flaw is a subplot in a story. It should have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the introduction of it. The middle consists of the obstacles for overcoming it. The end is the either overcoming it or not. These three steps comprise the arc. And overcoming it should not be easy, both to create a good storyline and because people don’t rid themselves of flaws easily. Why? First, we may be unaware of the flaw. Second, we may not be aware of why we are behaving in a flawed way. Third, we may have no real incentive to figure out those reasons and change.

This progression would be one way to progress through this subplot. The protagonist will need to be made aware of the flaw (other characters will point it out). Then, the protagonist must reflect on the reasons for choosing that behavior (usually there are several historical reasons). Finally, the protagonist must do something about those reasons (e.g. change his or her thinking). Isn’t this process the therapy real-world psychologists offer in their offices?

Regarding the character flaw as a subplot helps the author in another way—making it relevant to the main storyline (Story A). Subplots that change the direction of Story A now have a connection to it. Without that connection, a subplot can seem too independent and irrelevant. So how does the flaw subplot change Story A? The flaw drives the protagonist away from achieving his story goal in Story A. Take, for instance, Braffin. He’s a medieval warrior charged with slaying a dragon: he wants the fame. He must journey across a realm to find the mighty beast. But Braffin’s flaw is greed: he also longs to be rich. As he enters different towns during his journey, he sees opportunities to pursue treasure, which he takes and which leads him geographically away from the dragon. These treasure hunts are wild goose chases, never resulting in wealth. He’ll never encounter the dragon and slay it until he overcomes his greed, a conflicting desire. The principle here is that the protagonist must overcome his flaw in order to fulfill his story goal in Story A; without doing so, he will never achieve that story goal.

If the character flaw is treated as a subplot, it will more likely develop properly.

Three Act Structure: Act I

The three-act structure is frequently discussed for screenplays, but less so for fiction. Yet, this structure is very useful in fiction too, especially in the early stage of outlining a story. In a screenplay, act 1 is 30 pages, act 2 is 60, and act three is 30, for a total of 120 pages. Although most novels exceed 120 pages, the proportions should be respected. Act 2 is the same length as the first and third acts combined; and the first and third acts are the same length.

An effective story has at least three plot points. One ends act 1, the second is in the middle of act 2 (also the middle of the story), and the third is at the end of act 2. Plot points are a major shift in plot direction. Thus, for the reader, they signal a new section of the story. For example, in a rescue plot, act one could consist of the protagonist’s daughter going missing, the protagonist trying to figure out why without any real luck, and ending with plot point 1—a kidnapper contacts the protagonist, demanding payment. This changes the plot direction, because previously the protagonist did not know why his daughter was missing (maybe she ran off voluntarily) and whether she was still alive. Now he knows someone is holding her captive, so he can go after her. The second act could consist of the protagonist trying to raise the money, while at the same time commencing his search for her, ending with plot point 3—finding the kidnapper’s stronghold where she is being held hostage. He can now storm the castle, the major shift in plot direction. Previous to this point, he was only following clues, leading to empty rooms.

What specifically happens in each act? First, act 1. Some of the most exciting stories start with a hook, an action sequence, which is peculiar and gripping. Done right, you will hook the reader. Without it, the reader may stop after the first twenty pages. A reader’s human curiosity will start her reading a story, but that curiosity doesn’t last long. The hook keeps the reader interested. This opening sequence could be an unusual murder, where the rest of the story is about the protagonist detective trying to capture the murderer. Or it could be a British intelligence agent stealing information, but being shot while running away. The rest of the story is about James Bond going after the villain who slaughtered the agent.

After this opening sequence, the next sequences introduce the protagonist and the world in which she lives: where she lives, where she works, and what she does for fun. Just don’t start this section with an alarm clocking sounding, and the protagonist awaking and slapping it, which has been overdone. Half way through act one, a major change occurs in the protagonist’s life, imposing a problem on the protagonist. For example, the father’s daughter goes missing. He can hardly ignore this problem. Solving it creates his story goal: in this example, recovering his daughter. The second half of act 1 consists of either attempting to solve the problem or avoiding it, and in both cases offers more introduction to the story world. If the protagonist avoids the problem, something forces the protagonist to cease avoiding it by the end of act 1. As already discussed, act 1 ends with plot point one, an event significantly shifting the plot direction.

The next article will address the organs of Act two.

Three Act Structure: Act II

Act two is really the story, as act one was only the introduction. It consists of a series of obstacles or problems which the protagonist must overcome or solve to reach her story goal. Make the problems too easy to solve, and act two lacks any real conflict and thus drama. (Drama is conflict.) As the author, stick it to your protagonist, really drag her through the mud. Don’t play nice as god of the story. The more the protagonist struggles, the more the reader will identify with her, for what reader doesn’t understand hardship? The obstacles should also become larger and harder to overcome as the story progresses. The protagonist will become stronger and more capable after overcoming each obstacle. Thus, to truly challenge the protagonist, the problems must get harder. No use repeating the challenges of eighth grade; you’ve done that. Now you’re ready for the challenges of ninth grade. Similarly, Bilbo Baggins has outwitted Gollum and escaped his cave. No use making Bilbo encounter another riddle session with another Gollum. Why? No suspense. We know Bilbo is very capable of winning. How about making Bilbo next confront a huge, intelligent, fire-fuming dragon! Let’s see Bilbo outsmart it and escape its dark dwelling.

Plot point two falls in the middle of act two. The reason for it is to hold the reader’s attention with a major shift in plot direction, to shake the reader’s drowsiness by the this point and curtail a growing boredom with the story. The second act will nearly end with the protagonist’s dark moment, when things could not get worse for the protagonist and when the odds of achieving her goal are overwhelmingly against her. As a cruel god of this world, the author has placed the protagonist at her wit’s end, giving her no real chance to prevail. She will be crushed. The author has taken nearly everything from her. Only plot point three at the end of this act shifts the plot in a new direction, providing the protagonist a ray of hope.

Given that act two is the longest section of the overall story (the same length as acts one and two combined), luring the reader forward through it is a challenge. Two techniques are the ticking bomb and raising stakes. The ticking bomb can be literal. The villain plans to build a bomb, is building it, and is delivering it to a final destination. The timer probably won’t start its countdown until act three. James Bond had better learn of the bomb, and then find it. In act three, he had better snip the right wire before the timer reaches zero.

Or the ticking bomb can be figurative, referring to other time limits or deadlines. The protagonist must achieve his story goal within a limited amount of time. A lot of tension will be absent, if he has all the time in the world. Consider having to buy avocados for a party this evening. If you have all day, no real pressure. If the store closes in five minutes and you can’t find a parking place, a great deal of pressure. Deadlines always create stress, if you need to meet one but don’t have sufficient time. The same holds true in stories, as the reader vicariously feels the protagonist’s stress. So what else can create a deadline, besides a ticking bomb reaching zero? A train is heading through a mountain pass toward a bridge it must cross, except the bridge is ruined. The protagonist must rescue his wife from the train before it reaches the bridge. The bridge becomes the deadline. The Titanic strikes an iceberg and begins to sink. Two lovers must leave the ship in a safety boat before it entirely sinks. Total submersion is the deadline. Hence, a vehicle moving toward a destructive end creates a deadline. Other deadlines exist, and original stories find new forms of them.

Another tool for attracting a reader through act two is raising the stakes, which is just another way of saying increasing the protagonist’s potential loss. As an angry god in the story world, the author puts more and more at risk for the protagonist. Initially, John may lose his job if he fails to reach his story goal. Later, he will lose his marriage too. Harry Potter’s story goal is to defeat Voldemort. If he fails to, Voldemort will kill all non-magicians, stripping Harry of their existence. Voldemort will also oppress all magicians, which will adversely affect Harry’s friends. More of his friends may die, thereby losing them. Later, Harry has the very real risk of losing his own life. Rowling keeps stacking the ugly consequences and raising what is at stake if Harry does not fulfill his story goal. A valuable exercise for any author is to consider other forms of loss besides people and the protagonist’s own life. Although readers relate to these losses, the possibilities are not limited to these alone.

The next article addresses Act three.

Three Act Structure: Act III

The reader takes an additional interest in act three from plot point three, which shifts the plotline of act two. Where will this shift lead, the reader asks. Does the protagonist have a chance of reaching her story goal after all? Act three is primarily composed of the climactic sequence and, afterwards, fairly brief resolutions of the subplots. Great stories offer a lengthy climactic sequence, otherwise readers feel cheated: you mean I waited all this time for the battle between the hero and villain and it was no more than a brief skirmish! This story is lame, the reader concludes. Thus, act three is the beginning of the end, and might be regarded as one long sequence leading up to that battle in such stories. Bilbo Baggins has reached the Lonely Mountain, the dwelling of Smaug. Isn’t this the beginning of the end, the long sequence of confronting Smaug and slaying the evil monster? Batman finds the Joker, but is caught. He must first escape his bindings before a blade slices him in half. Then he must thwart Joker’s plan finally. Then he must beat Joker in a physical confrontation. Or the story consists of an inmate wrongly imprisoned and suffering various abuses within the jail. His goal is to escape. Act three begins with the long sequence of the night of his escape. Plot point two half-way through act two was his decision to escape, and the second half of act two was his planning for it. Plot point three was his decision to escape tonight.

What really helps any action sequence, including this one, are reversals. These are changes of the protagonist’s fate, flipping the direction between whether the protagonist will and will not achieve his story goal. In the grand hall where Smaug sleeps, Bilbo’s goal is to steal the Arkenstone. He can walk very quietly, as he’s a hobbit. Good, he’ll achieve his goal. But the treasure he walks on is loose; items tumble, making a noise; Smaug awakes—a reversal of Bilbo’s fate. He will not successfully steal the stone. Yet, the dragon does not kill Bilbo immediately, but engages him in dialogue. Bilbo spots the stone, and while Smaug looks away, the hobbit snatches it. Another reversal: Bilbo will succeed in the theft. But wait, the angered dragon vomits fire, which will fry the smuggler. Reversal. But, Bilbo uses the ring and becomes invisible. The dragon cannot see him. Reversal. But, Smaug has astute hearing, so the hobbit cannot simply walk out. Reversal. This volleyball effect creates a great deal of suspense. Many stories have been told with action sequences using reversals. Imagine a car chase, and you can easily enumerate the standard reversals. Action sequences become dull with cliché reversals. An author should make the extra effort to create unique ones, which will make act three far more engaging and memorable.

Once the protagonist achieves her story goal, what’s left? Shouldn’t the story end there? There are two problems with that approach. First, the reader just experienced an intense sequence, and needs time to calm down, at least a little. Second, what about resolution in the other stories (B,C, and D), the subplots? Beating the villain may have paved the way for resolution in the subplots, but more likely isn’t the resolution. A father rescues his daughter from a kidnapping, where the climactic sequence is storming the kidnapper’s hideout and shooting the villain through the skull. But a subplot was the father’s strained relationship with his daughter. If he would have spent less time at work, she would not have wandered off with a dubious friend, leading to her kidnapping. On their way home, the father now apologizes to his daughter, vowing to work less. Killing the villain paved the way to this resolution, as the father now has the opportunity to make the apology. But the apology is a distinct action from killing the villain. During this apology scene, the final scene in the story, the reader not only gets resolution of the subplot, but can also calm down—a much better ending point.

Subplots: what are they Really?

Subplots are just what their name indicates: plots which are under the main plot (Story A). Although there is a great deal of discussion about stories and their structure, far less is said about subplots. Why use subplots at all? Let’s examine the following story. Version 1: Girl moves to a small town and falls in love with a vampire boy. That’s it. That’s the only storyline we get. Version 2: We get an additional storyline. In that town, she runs into another boy, a werewolf, who tries to get her to love him. Version 3: We get a third storyline. The vampire boy is part of a vampire family, who try to stay disguised from the police chief and the other townsfolk. With version 3, the book, Twilight, now offers a richer fabric. The reader now gets more bang for her buck, having three stories rather than one. The story world also becomes more realistic, as more is happening. Our everyday world at any moment in time is surrounded with stories that interrelate: the stories of what is happening at work, at home, and with friends.

What is weak in many stories is the structure of subplots. An author will carefully plot out Story A, but will fail to do the same for the subplots: Stories B, C, and D. The structure of a subplot is the same as Story A. It should include the same narrative steps of: introduction; disturbance; obstacles; climax; and resolution. A subplot should have this story arc. The level of detail is less than in Story A, but having these narrative steps is still essential. A storyline will fail to engage without them. An author should ensure the volume of narrative devoted to any particular subplot is less than the volume of Story A, or run the risk of that subplot accidentally becoming Story A.

What ties a subplot to Story A? For instance, Sparky (a dog) lives with his owner, Gerald. One evening when Gerald is on a date, a thief breaks into their house and steals one of Gerald’s datasticks. Sparky knows the information on the datastick is sensitive, and follows the thief across town to rescue it. Meanwhile, another lesser story is told: about Muffins, a brown cat, who is doing everything in her power to learn to read. Could we get away with combining these two stories in one book? Not unless they connect somehow. Without a connection, the reader will consider Muffins irrelevant and be annoyed with her. Is it enough that Muffins lives in the same house as Sparky and is another pet of Gerald? That helps. The subplot about Muffins is tied to a character common to both storylines. But without a better connection, the reader may still end the book wondering why Muffins was included. Was she just filler, a tool for getting a larger page count to the book?

Perhaps Muffins has a laid-back personality, while Sparky is very energetic. Better. The two pets serve as foils for each other. Try this: in the climactic scene, Sparky has chased the thief onto the rooftop of a building, where Sparky then finds himself hanging from it, the thief ready to step on his paws. Suddenly, Muffins jumps onto the thief’s back, piercing his skin, giving Sparky a new burst of adrenaline and time to climb again onto the roof. While the thief fights with Muffins, Sparky snatches the datastick, and both pets run away. Now Muffins is relevant! Muffins changed the direction of Story A: she reversed Sparky’s fate and reversed whether he would achieve his story goal. The principle, then: a subplot should change the direction of Story A.

Subplots: Identifying Them

Since a subplot is a story of its own, it should contain the five steps of any narrative—i.e., a story arc. Indeed, “subplot” may be a misnomer, more appropriately named “sub-story.” A subplot, then, must have a protagonist with a goal, who then takes steps toward that goal. Any secondary character in the main storyline (story A) without a separate project is probably not a subplot. Many secondary characters simply help the protagonist in story A, and no separate sub-story is being told about them.

To identify a subplot in your favorite story, simply ask whether character X has a goal and whether narrative is devoted to that character overcoming obstacles to reach it. For example, in The Hobbit, Bilbo, Thorin, and Gandalf each have distinct story goals. Bilbo seeks adventure and his share of the treasure. Thorin seeks to reclaim a throne. Gandalf seeks to prevent Smaug from allying with Sauron. By contrast, the individual dwarves under Thorin do not have a distinct story goal; they simply help Thorin achieve his.

Subplots can stem from the protagonist in story A. The protagonist can have more than one story goal: one for story A and one for subplot B. For instance, John could be pursuing a murderer, but also trying to repair his relationship with his son. Alternatively, subplots can stem from a secondary character in story A. John could be pursuing a murderer, while his son tries to rob a bank. Finally, a subplot can consist of the antagonist, who works toward a unique story goal. For example, the Senate Slayer plans to murder four politicians on July 4th. He prepares for it. The goal of John, our protagonist, is to stop him. John’s goal differs from the killer’s.

Now we have our layered narrative. John pursues a murderer (story A), who plans on killing four politicians shortly (subplot B). Meanwhile, John’s son tries to rob a bank (subplot C), on July 4th, where the four murders will occur, to everyone’s surprise.

Exposition: Mass Media

Every story must convey information. The author must unveil the story world. The reader will learn about the setting, the characters in that setting, and what the characters do. The question is how to present this information. The author could tell it. For example, Jack entered the bedroom. He wanted to kill his wife, Jill. Or the author could show it. Jack entered the bedroom. He quietly approached the bed, where his wife was sleeping. The shadow of his knife fell across Jill’s neck. In the latter, Jack’s motivation is implied in his actions. It’s shown, not expressly told. A basic principle of good writing is to show, not tell. Exposition is telling. Exposition, therefore, is discouraged.

Nevertheless, there are occasions in storytelling when showing is simply impractical. Imagine that Jack’s bedroom is on a space-station 100 years from now. A whole sequence of cosmic events caused the sun to explode, blowing Earth to bits, and now that station orbits a remaining chunk of destroyed planet. Suppose the author wants to introduce this backstory at the beginning of her story. Creating scenes which show all these events might be very clumsy, adding too many scenes before we get to the scenes about Jack, our main character. However, simply telling the reader the history is exposition.

An effective compromise is disguised exposition. One character tells another character the information. The reader hears the conversation, thereby learning the information. But there are rules here, which damage a story if violated. Rule 1: character A must tell character B something B doesn’t already know. Rule 2: character A must tell it to B in a context or situation where B would want this information. Violate either of these principles, and your dialogue is unrealistic.

As for Rule 1, you will not tell your dad that he is a male. Why? He already knows this fact. People don’t iterate to others what others already know. People share new pieces of information. As for Rule 2, you will not tell your dad to watch his step and not slip on your bathroom floor, while the two of you are making a campfire 500 miles away from your house. Camping with your father is simply not a context or situation where your dad would want this information (because it’s not relevant).

Disguised exposition can delivered via mass media in a story: e.g., newscaster, newspaper, talk show, documentary, news interviews, magazine article, or book entry. In each case, a character in the story world is telling another character information. (We may not be introduced to all these characters, but the speaker and the recipient are still characters in that world.) Exposition is not as obvious using these methods, because it doesn’t violate the two rules above. Rule 1 is not violated, because a newscaster is not addressing any particular person. Although one character might know the information, many other characters won’t. Rule 2 is not violated, because a newscaster is not addressing any particular viewer’s situation. The newscaster is not sharing a particular situation with a particular viewer (such as lunch, or running away from the villain, or building a campfire).

In the example of Jack on the space station, the backstory could be told very quickly by cutting from one newscast to another. Those newscasts could skip in time, each providing a piece of the backstory. The reader is given a brief montage of newscasts, which is likely far more engaging than a preface of exposition. Naturally, mass media can be used at any place in the story where exposition is needed, not just the beginning.

The Series: the Arc

Perhaps one of the most successful book series is Harry Potter. What made the series so popular? Many things, but the one this article focuses on is the series arc.

The arc of a story consists of about six narrative steps. Although different words are used to describe these steps, they refer to the same concepts. First, the world and characters are introduced. Second, a significant change occurs in the protagonist’s otherwise stable existence, which defines the protagonist’s story goal. For example, Gandalf and the dwarves visit Bilbo Baggins at his quiet home, asking him to retrieve the Arkenstone from Smaug’s dwelling. Third, the protagonist resists this change until some other significant shift compels him or her to address it. Fourth, the protagonist commences his journey to reach his story goal, encountering one obstacle after the next. He loses hope, until a second major shift propels him forward to the climatic obstacle: frequently a battle with the antagonist directly—the fifth step. Sixth, the subplots are resolved.

Why call this an “arc”? The curve refers to the protagonist’s emotional state. The story starts with her more or less happy. As she progresses toward her story goal, however, she becomes more miserable, being the most miserable in the climactic battle. Providing she accomplishes the story goal, the story ends with her happy again, usually a little happier than when she started. The “arc” can also refer to the momentum in the story, as well as level of conflict. Stories frequently begin slow and the pace increases, ending in a slower mode again. As for conflict, stories often commence with a low level of conflict, which then increases, and then resolves.

A story arc is usually found in each book in a book series. For instance, Harry Potter completes another year of school, having faced a large challenge that year. Each book consequently tells a self-standing story and gives the reader a fulfilling experience. A series arc, by contrast, is the story told over the entire series, starting in book one and ending in the final book. The reader only gets part of this story in each book: e.g., Harry Potter’s increasing confrontation with Voldemort.

In a single book, the structure consists of Stories A, B, C, and D. Story A is the main storyline, whereas B, C, and D are the subplots. Similarly, in a book series, the structure can be Stories A, B, C, and D. Story A is the series arc, the story told over the entire series, whereas B, C, and D are the story arcs in books one, two, and three respectively. In this example, book four (the final book) consists of steps five and six of the series arc (the climactic battle and resolution of that storyline).

The series arc motivates the reader to continue to the next book, luring the reader through the whole series. The bothersome question of how the series arc concludes drives the reader across all the books, which provides one reason the Harry Potter series was so successful. A book series omitting the series arc lacks this particular enticement.