Many writers never consider themes in their work. In fact, for some, theme is dirty word. It’s confusing and elusive – an intangible element in fiction derived from the characters, plot, and setting.
But when plotting a series, theme is crucial. Deciding up front what the overall theme will be will help you plot individual stories while staying true to the series.
What does ‘staying true to the series’ mean? From the very first book, even from the series title, you make a promise to readers about what the stories will involve: characters, genre, and in romance, the promise of a happy ending. Each book needs to keep that promise or you’ll lose your readers.
A series that goes astray from the original theme confuses and disappoints readers, and when that happens, they won’t come back for more.
For my Super Agent Series, and many crime/thriller series, the theme is Good vs. Evil. Interestingly enough, the theme for my Witches Anonymous series, which is light paranormal, is the same. That’s one of the best things about themes – they work for every genre.
Caveat for Plotting a Romance Series
This probably goes without saying, but you aren’t writing a romance unless you have two basic elements:
- a central love story; and,
- an emotionally satisfying ending, also known as a Happily Ever After (HEA) or Happy For Now (HFN).
In a romance, the main plot concerns two people falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. The conflict and climax center on the love story.
If you’re writing a serial or sequel, the love story may not conclude in the first book, but it should still leave the reader with the idea that things WILL eventually work out for the hero and heroine.
This leads to having an emotionally satisfying and/or optimistic ending. Romance novels end in a way that makes the reader feel good and reinforces the idea of emotional justice—the notion that good people in the world are rewarded and evil people are punished. In a romance, lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
The following is a list of some common themes that work especially well for romances. Don’t limit yourself to a single theme if more than one fits, but start with a single overarching main theme and then allow subthemes to develop organically for the individual stories.
As stated above, if you’re writing a romance series, a love theme will be present in every story.
If you get stuck plotting or developing your characters’ conflicts, revisit your series theme for help.
- Forbidden Love
If you’d like to learn more about themes and plotting, sign up for my Plotting the Romance Series workshop here at Savvy Authors in September.
Misty Evans is the author of four series spanning four genres. The Super Agent Series, Witches Anonymous Series, and the Kali Sweet Series have all been on multiple Amazon Kindle bestsellers lists.
The books in her Super Agent series have won a CataNetwork Reviewers’ Choice Award, CAPA nominations, the New England Reader’s Choice Bean Pot Award for Best Romantic Suspense in 2010 and the ACRA Heart of Excellence Reader’s Choice Award for Best Romantic Suspense in 2011.
She has short stories in Entangled, A Paranormal Anthology, and Every Witch Way But Wicked. All proceeds fromEntangled go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and all proceeds for EWWBW go to Nathon Fillion’s Kids Need To Read charity. Her culinary romance mystery, The Secret Ingredient, is part of the bestselling Mirth, Murder & Mystery boxed set.
Misty is currently at work on the next books in all her series. She likes her coffee black, her conspiracy stories juicy, and her wicked characters dressed in couture. When not reading or writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband of twenty-four years and their twin sons. Learn more and sign up for her newsletter. Like her author page on Facebook or follow her onTwitter.
Fifteen years ago, Anya Radzoya fled Russia with her grandmother after the suspicious deaths of her parents, but she can’t escape the royal genes that make her one of Russia’s last living princesses. When President Ivanov blackmails her into returning to Moscow in exchange for her grandmother’s life, Anya discovers he’s planning to unleash a nuclear war. With no one else to turn to, she joins forces with CIA operative Ryan Smith.
Undercover at the nuclear summit, Ryan recruits Anya to find proof Ivanov is resurrecting the Cold War, but he suspects his new asset is a double agent. Anya is determined to rescue her grandmother with or without his help, however, and Ryan finds himself falling for the beautiful princess before he even trusts her.
Trapped inside the Kremlin with a cunning and ruthless opponent, the two must risk their lives and their hearts to save Anya’s grandmother as well as millions of innocent people.