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Same main character needed?

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I am in the midst of writing a MG series, and I am trying to decide whether I need to have all the books feature the same main character, or whether I can get away with featuring another character in one of the books.

So I have a question: when writing a MG or YA series, is it necessary to have all of the books star the same main character?  If you have read any that don't, did it bother you? 
#1 - May 15, 2008, 02:44 AM


I'm reading The Dalemark Quartet right now, and it's a series in which some of the characters recur and some don't. I was a little disappointed when I reached book two simply because I liked the characters in book one and wondered what happened to them, but then I got sucked in by book two trying to figure out how it related to book one. And the characters I wondered about are back in book four.

My favorite series that does this is in adult sci-fi, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. It starts with Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. Different main characters, absolutely fabulous. It felt seamless; the MC in book one appears at the beginning of book two, sending the new MC off on her adventure. A kind of passing of the proverbial buck. :)

All of which is a long-winded way to say that it works for me. So long as the characters that aren't continued have a satisfying resolution.
#2 - May 15, 2008, 05:36 AM


I don't think it is necessary.  Scott Westerfeld, after all, released the fourth book of his Uglies "trilogy", Extras.  The MC was not the same as the main character in the trilogy, but it definitely part of the series.

I think it might be trickier in MG, because readers become attached to the characters.  They want to follow the same character around more, and so might be disappointed to find the next book to be about a DIFFERENT character.  But I certainly won't say it can't be done!
#3 - May 15, 2008, 05:41 AM

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I don't think it's necessary at all, but I agree that it might be easier in YA.

Middle-grade books have done it all the way along, though. Think of the Amy, Laura and Veronica Ganz books by Marilyn Sachs, the Babysitters Club, and the series that includes Saffy's Angel (can't remember the author or other titles), to name an older, a medium-old, and a current series.

Sometimes this depends on the publisher, if your series is already under contract. One publisher told me I had to stick to the MC in book 1, for fear of scattering the audience who might not want to read about her sister in book 2. If a contract is already in place for a series as a whole, you can't always do what you want -- unless, of course, you're willing to risk preventable rejection on the subsequent books.

Personally, I LIKE series that switch the MC. I like different points of view and perspectives. 
#4 - May 15, 2008, 06:30 AM
Adventures of Jenna V. Series
Caroline Grade Mysteries
The Journey of Emilie
Anne Bradstreet: America's Puritan Poet

I worked on the interiors of some books by Dandi Daley Mackall (Faithgirlz, Zondervan) in which there were 4 girls who were friends (I think). Each book featured a different girl. I didn't actually read the books, but the concept seemed to work.

pj lyons
#5 - May 15, 2008, 06:39 AM
The Art of Story


I agree that it might be a tad trickier in MG than YA, but certainly possible, especially if you don't completely abandon the MC from the first book, just put her into a lesser role. For some reason I'm reminded of the Narnia books, which featured different MCs, although the larger cast of characters still referenced the other books.
#6 - May 15, 2008, 06:54 AM

Lisa Yee's middle grade series, MILLICENT MIN, STANFORD WONG, and EMILY EBERS, features a different main character in each book, all set in the same place with the same setting. Millicent, Stanford, and Emily are friends with each other.
#7 - May 15, 2008, 08:05 AM

My series features different members of the same family.  Don't forget the Babysitters' Club books by Ann M. Martin--many, many different babysitter mc's in that series.
#8 - May 15, 2008, 08:45 AM

"If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Mark 9:23

"all set in the same place with the same setting." Geez. I meant all set in the same summer in the same town.
#9 - May 15, 2008, 08:51 AM


My next book is told from a completely different POV, but I felt that it was an important way of carrying through on the ideas in the book that everyone has a special talent or 'savvy.' The new character in Book 2 is related to the last MC, and the book takes place nine years later, but I think that in some cases there is a lot to be said for expanding or building on different perspectives rather than taking the same characters through a series of new and different conflicts--like every time they turn around, some new bad thing happens to them. My books have magical qualities, but they are set in our 'real' world. Plus, the MC in Savvy already had her story. She learned and grew and had an adventure. In most ways, she's a regular kid, she can go on with her life for awhile now. I wanted to explore the family tree a bit more, rather than center just on her, to see what the ramifications of such a family 'gift' is like for other savvy kids and family members.

Don't get me wrong, this is simply a choice. I love series books that follow the same character throughout as well. Mine just didn't seem to fit this mold, and my publisher is fine with that. Again, I think this is one of those places to follow your instincts and write what wants to be written rather than what you perceive "should" be done. I hate the word "should" (yet it still seems to come out of my mouth all the time)!
#10 - May 15, 2008, 09:05 AM


Don't a couple of Tamora Pierce's series do this (like Circle of Magic)?
Peter Dickenson's "Kin" series does this, too.
And Shannon Hale's Bayern books each feature different MCs.
#11 - May 15, 2008, 02:25 PM

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Great answers!

I'm eager to read the next SAVVY book. The concept is really cool and by keeping the next story in the same family, readers who enjoy finding out what happened next (like me) will love to see how the family has progressed.

I've done different styles in my own series, although usually I stick with the same character. I've written 6 series and two of them deviated from the one-heroine focus. My 1996 series CHEER SQUAD featured a group of cheerleaders and each book alternated viewpoints as well as offered multiple viewpoints. For my 2000 series REGENERATION, I had a main character telling the story in first person alternating with another character point of view in third person.

So really, anything goes. Editorial decisions will guide the final outcome, anyway.

Good luck!
#12 - May 15, 2008, 04:39 PM


Thank you all for your insights!  I think that I will try it and see how it goes. (I also think I'm going to read the series that were mentioned that I haven't read yet--hopefully that'll give me even further insight into how I might go about it).  I don't plan to abandon my MC in this sequel, just have her be a bit part.  My plan is for the old MC and the new MC to be brought together in the final book.

Ryan--was the MC in the fourth book in Uglies a minor character in one or more of the earlier books?

Rabbit--do you plan to have a different MC for each of the books in your series?  (I will definitely be checking out Savvy...)

(Can I just say that this board is great?) :thankyou
#13 - May 15, 2008, 05:21 PM



I'm eager to read the next SAVVY book. The concept is really cool and by keeping the next story in the same family, readers who enjoy finding out what happened next (like me) will love to see how the family has progressed.

Thanks LindaJoy!

I will tell you one my added challenges with switching MCs for a second book: Savvy is written in first person. So, of course, the next book is as well. This new character has to have his own voice, yet it has to reflect the quality of the tone of the Savvy mythology. He can't sound exactly like my first MC. With Mibs (Savvy's MC) I used a lot of reduplicative words and sounds, lots of repetition, alliteration, etc. - her voice is very unique to her. For my new MC (a boy) I've been working hard to give him his own voice. I still use occasional alliteration (because I love it) but his word choice is different (though still occasionally unique and unusual), his tone is different--but I hope that the book still captures the same tall-tale Savvy quality. We'll see... I'm almost done with my first draft and my editor will surely tell me if I've pulled this off!  :hiding (That's me waiting for first editorial reactions...)

Rabbit--do you plan to have a different MC for each of the books in your series?  (I will definitely be checking out Savvy...)

Yes, I envision three books at the moment, each from a different POV... but we'll see (I can only guess what the future holds). I did write a short 'origin story' for the family mythology as well, which you can find posted for a limited time on the Resources page of Penguin's Savvy site (the link to Penguin's site is below), which tells the story of how this family came to have their 'special know-how.' That story is not told in the first person. It's told more like a traditional tall-tale instead.

It's an interesting thing trying to decide who should tell the story in a book and how. Sometimes I wish I'd made it easier on myself and written Savvy in third person... but I like a good challenge. And I'd miss my MC's voice if I'd done that.  :D
#14 - May 15, 2008, 05:31 PM


I swear, Ingrid, we've got so much kismet going on it's scary...
#15 - May 16, 2008, 04:41 AM


I agree with those who say nope, no need for it to be the same character.

I actually just spoke with my agent about this very thing a few days ago.  I have a new series concept but it's Upper YA and we all know that pesky issue of categorizing a book YA once the MC moves on to college. So to remedy that, I told my agent I could simply revolve the series around the fictional magazine publisher within the book b/c the mag runs on teen insight and interns.

By doing this I'm able to still have the original MC pop in and out b/c her parents own the company.  But I can focus on interesting characters within the magazine's world.  So conceivably each book would be about someone different.

#16 - May 16, 2008, 06:43 AM

So many good MG series have different MCs for each book. I loved the My Teacher is An Alien series and loved getting to know different characters involved in the series. I'm considering writing a sequel to my own novel that follows a different MC than the first one does, and I hadn't even thought to worry about the issue. My agent thinks it's a good idea, but I guess you never know how readers are going to react.

One thing I'm curious about--do you think it would work to tell a sequel about a different main character AND in a different style of POV? For example, is it too jarring to have a book told in 3rd past and then a sequel told in 1st present?
#17 - June 07, 2008, 06:11 PM
Where Futures End (Penguin/Dawson, 2016)

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I don't mind Shannon Hale's MCs changing in the same universe. Another one  I can think of is Mary Hoffman's Stravaganza series. I don't know why, but I had a harder time transferring my loyalties in this one. I still like the first set best! Maybe it's because in the Bayern books, the MC's struggles are completely resolved, where as they are in some ways still going on in the Stravaganza series? I don't know. I guess--it can work.
#18 - June 07, 2008, 11:23 PM


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