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*