Monday, December 19, 2011
Miscellaneous Mondays: Is Your Favorite Series Past It's Expiration Date?
By way of kicking off our discussion, I'm going to talk about my specific experiences with series and what I feel they did right or wrong with regard to length. Remember that this is just my opinion, and feel free to disagree.
Harry Potter: The Finite Series
This was the first continuity based series that I ever read. I've gushed about it enough on this blog that I don't think I need to explain why I like it.
Rowling had said fairly early on that she'd be writing seven books, and only seven books. As a kid reading these, that idea used to torture me. It tortured me the entire time I was reading the last book, knowing that this was my last encounter with Harry (barring some spin-off series way down the road). But now, looking back, it was the best thing for the series. As a whole, the series has plot structure--rising action, climax, and resolution. There's a big goal, and that goal gets accomplished within exactly the time frame that Rowling set out to do it. I'm not saying it's a perfect system, but it worked for me.
Bottom line: If you are going to write a continuity based series that follows one character or very few characters, planning is key. Have in mind how many books the story is going to take to tell (or at least an approximation), and how you're going to end it. Make sure each book builds toward something, and DON'T pad the series with more books than you need.
The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning: Should Have Stuck With The Plan
This is a wonderful series that had a finite number of books...that the author kept changing. I believe it was originally going to be a trilogy, and then it was 4 books, and it FINALLY ended at 5. And the thing is, it didn't need five books! The exact same story could have been told in 3 or 4 books if the author had planned better and tightened up the narrative. When I look back at this series PADDING and FILLER are two words that always enter my mind, even though I'm extremely fond of it and recommend the series all the time.
The Carpathians by Christine Feehan: Why Copy-Pasting is BAD
Every time a new book in this series comes out, I think "Holy Penguin Poop, they're still publishing that crap?" It's one of those series that ALWAYS gets brought up when you talk about series that have gone on too long. A lot of people complain about the silliness, like the made up language that Feehan is so proud of (sorry lady, but you aren't Tolkien and this isn't Middle Earth), plus the plots that don't make sense.
My qualm, and the reason that I stopped reading them, is that every love story in this series started to feel the same. At first, there were some original ones--Dark Desire had a bat-shit crazy hero, Dark Melody had a pregnant heroine...and that stuff worked as smoke and mirrors to prevent me from realizing that every character in this 20-something book series experiences love the same. This is boring and, in my opinion, inaccurate. Romance is interesting to me because real people, and really well written characters, all experience love differently. Every couple should have a different journey.
Bottom line: sameness/repetitiveness is probably the most common way for a series to go stale, and is the reason why series should be capped at 12 books.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R Ward: Derailing for a Different Reason?
I've been having mixed feelings about this one. It's not growing stale due to repetition, but it may be headed in the opposite direction. The last book had me thinking that Ward no longer wanted to be writing romance, because she spent so little time on her main couple. This begs an important question: If a series needs to change in order to keep from going stale, how can it do so without changing so much that the fans no longer connect with it? If you started reading a series as romance, how do you feel if it suddenly changes to more fantasy or mystery?
Bottom line: I'm reserving official judgement on the expiration status of the BDB for at least one more book. However, I do think the series would be stronger if Ward decided how many more books to write and stuck to it. No more introducing new, unheard of characters that no one cares about just to extend the life of the series. No more foreshadowing things that she'll forget to address later. And for the love of God, a little more focus please.
What's Your Opinion?
I think even the best of series should stop at ten. I have yet to read a Book 11 or Book 12 that was as good as the earlier books in the series. By this point, you've seen enough of the world, you know everything there is to know about your main character(s), and if there's a big overarching goal in the series, it should have been reached by Book 10. I'm sure there are exceptions, and I'll be happy to declare myself incorrect in this matter the minute I find that magical, perfect 15 book series. Whatever happens though, I remain a believer in planning and finite series.
What are your experiences? Do you have any big ongoing series that you continue to love? Series that you read out of loyalty only? Hopes for a series to make a come back? What keeps you reading, and what makes you stop?
PS--The new pole is up, and it's a lighter one: Best cookie variety! Be sure to vote!