Posted in Chit Chat

Standalone or Series?

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Thanks to KalebFan, a supportive follower of my merry blog, for dropping me this idea for an article!

So here’s the question: Standalone or Series?

I know I can answer this without wavering. I will always pick up a series over a stand alone novel, if it is genre fiction. PNR, Urban Fantasy, YA, I’m more likely to buy it if there’s a promise of more when I finish it. But why?

  • It is an investment – I’m giving you, the author, my money and my time and in return I want a prolonged sense of satisfaction and pleasure (or pain.. all of us like to hurt over our favourite characters). And I want this to continue for at least three books. ENTERTAIN ME!
  • Just right – Like the Three Bears, but instead of porridge I’m talking about book length. A series means that it’s stretched out, but not drawn out (I hope, but there are exceptions, see below). I don’t want the my beloved characters to realise the whole of their development and narrative arc in one book. It leaves me feeling bereft.
  • Amputation – That’s right. Making me love a character and then ripping them away at the end of one book is like having an arm or leg chopped off.
  • Excitement – Nothing can compare to that feeling when the next book in a series is due for release. Searching, requesting, begging for ARCs and then buying it anyway because you love it (both in hardback and later on in paperback because they change the cover art).

Here’s where I make exceptions:

  • Endless – When I’m thinking about jumping on the band wagon of a series, I immediately look at the current volume count. I tried to get into the Anita Blake series last year… but with a daunting 22 novels in that series, it felt more like an uphill marathon than something to savour or enjoy.
  • Milk it – You know what I’m talking about… You love a series, follow it for a while and then totally lose faith in it because the story has been stretched too thin. *cough* Sookie Stackhouse *cough cough* I could list quite a few that just need to stop now… Stop. Stop writing. Move on.
  • Literary – I love me a good literary read. The ones that make you feel inadequate as a writer and sometimes a little baffled as a reader (Salman Rushdie, I thank you). There’s a reason that these books are not made into a series.
  • Certain authors: Some authors get away with stand alone reading better than others. They can make it feel like a wholesome thing rather than leaving me with an unhappy hole at the end. Margaret Atwood is the woman for me in this respect.

But what about when there’s a series of standalones?

I’ve noticed that this tends to happen more in the SF/Fantasy genres. A world is created, whether totally out of this world, or mirroring our own, and an author explores it with different characters in each volume. Something links them together (working for the same organisation perhaps) but they don’t tend to cross paths with previous protagonists.

Hm. I’m still not sure how I feel about these. Part of me feels cheated because I like the universe these characters work in, but it’s hard work building empathy and emotion for new spotlighers every time I crack open the cover. It’s like starting over, and over, and over. And eventually the stories will be samey, right?

Or wrong. I dunno, I haven’t found many examples of this phenomenon. I’m currently reading #2 of the ‘Damask Circle’ series by Keri Arthur which does this. And I’m loving the books.. but feeling somewhat detached from it, which wouldn’t necessarily be the case if the same characters were followed through from #1.

How do y’all feel? Series, or Standalone? THAT is the question. *shameless Shakespeare reference*

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Author:

YA writer. Epic reader. Professional procrastinator.

17 thoughts on “Standalone or Series?

  1. I feel the same way on series. I do have a few like the wheel of time ,that I just do not have the time to invest. I will try to conquer a few of those this summer. My favorite series is the dark tower by Stephen king. Sometimes stand alones are great too tho.

    1. Ahh, The Dark Tower series is on my TBR 2014 list for sure. I unknowingly stole a character name from it (I mean how OCULD I have known if I’ve never read it?!) so that intrigued me. And then there’s the references to ‘Childe Roland’ in other literature that makes me feel like I need to read this series. 😀

      1. Yeah he references so many books and films. King is the master. It is such a good series all his novels tie together in what is, The Dark Tower.

  2. I absolutely prefer series, and I agree with basically everything you mentioned. One exception for me, though, is contemporaries. Since those often have a main focus on the characters’ personal development, I think it works. Other than that, series all the way (as long as their not endless, I want to be finished before I die thank you very much).

    1. I don’t tend to read many contemporaries. I really should. Force myself to break out of my own, comfortable box and all that jazz. I think certain genres lend themselves to a series more than others. And I think contemporary fiction is more likely to be a standalone than a series.. maybe.. I think.. LOL! Thanks for stopping by! 😀

  3. Series over standalones, no doubt about it. I can totally relate to the milking it reason though (Mortal Instruments and the future series by Cassandra Clare, I’m looking at you)

    1. Oh gee, tell me about it! There comes a time when enough is enough. When a series fills you with annoying dread (because you know you’ll read it.. but you wish it would just end already!) ^.^

  4. Yes, series are awesome as long as you don’t stretch it out like you said. I never even considered the Anita Blake or the Sooki Stackhouse books because that would probably be a little too much for me. I hate when an author starts a series which gets popular and just keeps milking it with the quality dropping with each book. Give me a good trilogy (or 6 books in Richelle Mead’s case) over these any day of the week. The only exception so far was the Morganville Vampires books.
    On the other hand I can also love a good character-driven, possibly soul-crushing standalone with a certain message that gives me all the feels. Right now that would be Laurie Halse Anderson for me. Dying to start The impossible knife of memory (stupid exams…) and working up the courage for Wintergirls.

    1. Ah, see, I’ve completely lost my patience with the Morganville Vampires series. I can’t do it any more. Especially once I caught up and had to wait for like a year for the next one.. and totally forgot what had happened in the other. I mean, I remember Magnus (it is Magnus, right?) because he’s cuckoo and kinda sexy in an unstable kind of way. LOLOLOL!

      1. I think you mean Myrnin, Magnus is in The Mortal Instruments (and possibly in other books, I don’t know). 🙂 I have the last 3 books I can’t bring myself to get through, but 12 books is still the longest I lasted. The one I’ve come to really hate was the House of night series Ugh, don’t get me started on that. And I plan to start the Black Dagger Brotherhood books per your recommendation (that’s already 11 books), so I’m trusting you there. That would be me stepping out of the comfort zone.

      2. I knew it began with an ‘M’! See? This is what happens with all these series’, I get confused!

        Yeah, I gave up on the House of Night too. I really liked it at first.. but kinda lost it when they went to a misty island in freakin’ Scotland.. or somewhere..

        Am I getting my series’ mixed up again?!

        LOL!

        Oooh! I hope you enjoy BDG, some people don’t like it because it can be quite full-on, both in the action scenes and in the sexy-time scenes. But I love what Ward has done with the vampire thing. It’s different. And different is always good.

  5. Great post! We’ll talk royalties for the idea later… you do get well paid for this gig, right?

    I admit I am a fairly shameless follower of a lot of different character series. I knew they were popular, but I didn’t realise other people were so active in seeking them too. If you’re a bit behind on books (see what I did there?!) it’s cool to find the first one in a long running series, discover you like it, then be able to buy the next three or four and add them to the tbr read pile (which now needs a new home to store!).

    There are definitely some negative sides. You can get invested in a character, only for the author to let you down in a later book. That always feels like a personal insult!

    I’d never heard of a series of standalone novels before, that’s a new one for me. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for those, even though it’s normally characters rather than settings which keep me coming back.

    Good stuff, I enjoyed reading this post, as I do with all of your blog!

    1. Yeah the series of standalone phenomena is an odd one indeed! I haven’t found many and I wasn’t sold on the idea at first, but the one I mentioned above is totally awesome! I’m loving it!

      It’s like taking a world like Middle Earth, but instead of following Frodo or Bilbo for a BAJILLION pages (and that is a real number, because I never make stuff up..) you move around the characters. They don’t crossover, but it has a complete narrative arc. Like, you can have one book with Sam and Frodo, and then the next book with the Elf king dude (I can’t remember his name..) and then the next with a dwarf or something. But they’re all shitting bricks because Sauron (sp?) is about to duff ’em up!

      …that was a terrible explanation…

      😀

  6. Haha, no, I understand! It strikes me too that it’d probably work best in a fantasy setting, where the location and its quirks are as much a part of the charm and appeal as the characters themselves. Although I’m sure someone could pull it off in a more conventional setting too.

    And of course bajillion is a real number. It’s equal to one hundred kajillions!

  7. I loved the Anita Blake series initially but about 6 books in, I think, the author went around the bend. The main story line (which was already getting a little too thin for my tastes) was taking a back seat to the (poorly written) soft core porn.

    It was really disappointing.

    1. I’ve only got as far as book one. Somebody let me borrow their collection, almost a year ago, but the thought of it is such a daunting task! I thought the Sookie Stackhouse series went the same way… it just went all kooky. It might have been better with the inclusion of some poorly written soft core porn.. But it was just ‘meh’.

      I agree, it is really disappointing, especially after investing so much time and money and faith into a character/author.

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