Sunday, September 27, 2009

Series Fatigue

I write fantasy and as most fantasy readers and writers know, it's all about the series. Some famous series includes Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Mr. Jordan passed away and left his fans hanging until his widow found another author, Brandon Sanderson, to finish the sprawling complicated tale. Terry Goodkind, one of my favorite, finished his eleven book Sword of Truth series. I love fantasy series but when do they get too long? When a reader gets to book ten and it's been over a year since reading book nine and perhaps ten years since reading book one, has the intensity and interest wilted? Does the reader get to the point where they think, 'just save the world already and be done with it?' What is the ideal length for a series?
Some series aren't always a continuing tale. Many mystery and suspense novels feature the same protagonists and a host of recurring characters but each novel has a new crisis or new villain. Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels are a good example or any of Robert Parker's detective series books. But even these novels are more enjoyable if you've read them all in order.
Romance novels often call it a series if a group of novels take place in the same location or perhaps the same fantastical or futuristic world. Each book may have a guest appearance by the protagonists of a previous novel and often the secondary characters in one novel have their own tale somewhere down the publishing road.
As a reader there have been a few series I gave up on. After all, if the good guys can't win in 10,000 pages, I'm not sure I can pull for them anymore. Or in the case of a series romance, how many hot guys and heroic women can live in one town? How many serial killers can one cop run into in a lifetime? When does the reader start to say enough? Why can't some writers end the series and let us believe they all live happily ever after or not? They either save the world or go quietly into the night?
My own fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles, is four books long. Book One will be released in January. My romance series, The Chronicles of Solonia, is four books long. The Tigers of Salubria will be three books long when complete.
As a writer, do you decide how long a series will be before you start to write it? As a reader, do you know series that have gone on too long? Do you have some you want to never end?

3 comments:

Jo Anne said...

Depends on the series characters. There are some that I can't get enough of and then there are those that #6 book was to much. I started the Jordan books and then said no, to many, yet there is a shapeshifter series I am reading and I don't want it to stop.

As a writer, you should know where your characters and story are going. As the writer you know when to end it and if you don't your publisher will tell you. I've seen that happen.
Jo Anne

Cate Masters said...

The most engaging series have many offshoots to the plot, or secondary characters whose stories also follow an intriguing arc. While the main conflict is the primary one, supporting characters with their own conflicts add great appeal, to me at least. Lord of the Rings is a great example.

todd said...

it depends really some of mine can end some can continue on if you think the protagonist didn't solve his/her conflict or the story ends in a way that leaves the reader what happens to the protagonist some would maybe better off having a prologue to answers the questions that need answers but a sequel should have as much of a conflict in the previous that could solve a conflict from previous books in the series I write fantasy and my story had a conflict that was thought to be resolved but wasn't and what could help series if you wanted to extent it would create another conflict that ties in with the previous cnflict like in my story but don't extend the series too long like Lemony snickets a series of unfortunate events which kept through the first four books the same pattern storyline we don't know until the end of the fifth one something that is accentually the turning point of the series so don't stretch a series if you don't half to and a series main conflict should be the focal point of all the books in the series and something that could be entertaining and resolved on the final book of series