Saturday, July 21, 2012

Musings about Series Missteps and Success by Sharon the Librarian

Sharon the Librarian

I read, and I read a lot. I can find something good and something bad in just about everything I read. This includes my favorite, and least favorite reads. However, one thing that always makes me sad is an idea or series that starts with incredible potential, and then starts to falter. Sometimes this happens early, and you only need to read the first couple books before calling it quits. Other series keep you entertained into double digits before you can finally let go, or simply keep reading because you do not want to miss your big question being answered or the former level of quality returns. There are many series in adult and young adult that have kept me reading well past the point where I was reading more out of obligation than interest, and on rare occasions this has pleasantly surprised me. However, in most cases I either stop reading the series (eventually) or just hope it ends sometime soon.

Writing a series, or any book, is hard if you are doing it right. In a series, each book needs to give enough of the back story so that a new reader is not completely lost and confused but eager to read what came before, and what will come after. However, you cannot forget that loyal readers know most of that back story, although if only one book a year is released the refresher might be nice, so you do not want to bore them. The balance is hard to master, as is the continued effort to find new conflicts, new challenges that do not seem either far-fetched or too much like something you have already done.  Then there is the challenge of endings. Each book needs to have an ending of its own, but still encourage readers to come back for more. Some writers seem to just write one huge book, randomly pick some dividing lines, and call it a trilogy or quartet. That drives me insane. I need some level of closure. Some writers make each book almost stand alone, with only the major players and their jobs keeping the books recognizable as a series. Some of these are fantastic while others begin to get dull fairly quickly. Some series end each book with an increasing number of questions, and little to no acknowledgment of those questions or answers offered. The story just seems to continue without resolutions. These bother me on a cellular level but I have a hard time letting go, because the answers might just be in the next book. Other series are connected by crisis, disaster, huge arcing plot lines with significant conclusions and unanswered questions at the end of each installment. These tend to be my favorite and I can rattle off suggestions for several genres if asked.

It must be hard to write multiple books with the same characters and not run out of things for them to do, people for them to date, and crises for them to avert. I would like to take this moment to plead with authors, and readers. If a series no longer is working for you, wrap it up and cut ties. Start a new project, read some of the other simply fantastic work that is currently available. I am currently reading piles of books that would hurt someone if they fell on them. I have back logs of galleys, e-books, and magazine articles I desperately want to read. However, I know that if I happen to see a book from one of the many series that I am current with come across the library desk, it is coming home with me and I will find the time to read it for good or ill. I know I need to stop that. If I do not feel something when reading a book, other than annoyance or boredom, it is time to put that book down and move on. Life is too short to keep reading the same old thing, when there is so much fabulous writing available!

Now, if you have been following a series and one book does not measure up I am not saying you need to immediately give up hope and the series. You can, and should, give the author a chance to balance out the story. There is one author out there that has two series which I followed insistently. Then the books started to become more about the intimate moments than any actual plot- but there was a ton of available story line at hand. I almost gave up on the series, but after a couple of less than stellar books the quality began to build back to its previous level and I am back to eagerly awaiting the chance to read the next installment. Not every series can make this climb, but it can be done in any genre if handled correctly. 

I love reading, even those books that I finish with a sigh because it was not all I hoped. I need to work harder to set aside series that have passed their peak. Do you have a series that you know you should let go of and just can’t seem to move on from? Or are you among the lucky that have either already mastered this, or have yet to be disappointed enough to want to set one aside?

Catch Sharon the Librarian on her blog: 

No comments:

Post a Comment