Series vs. Stand Alone
A series character vs. A stand alone
I’ve discussed this many times on our radio show, Suspense Radio. I’ve always been one that loves a series character, BUT as long as the series doesn’t get stale. In seeing more and more authors and publishers going the series route, I caution both of them to tread carefully. Now I could name many authors that have written a series character that has gone its course. Many times authors let the series go probably 4 or 5 books too long, losing fans and the ability to be creative and an author. I’ve fallen on the side of a stand alone, for the simple reason that the author needs to be creative in every book. Let’s look at it this way. When you write a series, it is very important to progress the main character’s lives just as it is important to keep the plots and story lines fresh all the time. Many times there are books in the series that fall flat, for a couple of reasons. One reason would be because the author has to spoon feed the direction or expansions of the character, falling short on the plot of having them do the same thing over and over. I read on the back of the book “This is the most ruthless killer, xxxxx, has ever faced, will they make it out alive?” Now you can only write that so many times before it gets very old. If you look at a TV show that had this problem, 24, they did it a different way. You knew that with 24 all characters except Jack Bauer was safe within the series, but at the finale anything goes. You never knew if Jack would actually survive. When you write a stand alone novel, each time you have to bring in a full main character and sub characters, along with weaving a plot inside the story. Now you have to create something new every time. When you write a series, you already have the basis of the back story and character creation, that you simply must progress the character and try and put them in a new situation. Two authors, off the top of my head, did something great with a series character; they had an end in sight, which builds the suspense of the final book wondering if anybody will be safe. JK Rowling and Steven James are the two authors. Now JK Rowling just came out and said her plan was to kill Ron Weasley, but if you remember the build up to the final book, nobody knew if Harry would survive. That was the hook to get millions of people picking up the book. What JK and Steven have in common is that you know where the ending of the series is. With Steven he will end his Patrick Bowers series with “Checkmate” and I’ve had some conversations with Steven about the end, and he still hasn’t decided on which way to go. Does he kill Patrick or keep him alive? This is what natural suspense is all about, the build up that leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering, not only the story, but with the main character and their future. You know when you see another series book without a hard ending; you are probably going to get the same thing that happened in the last ten books.
The main question is which is more satisfying for a reader. For me I’m leaning towards books or series where I know they have a hard end. I love the suspense build up and look forward to the next book in the series, especially when I know the end is coming near. It is very difficult for an author that has spent so much time on a character to simply kill them off and start over, which I completely understand. We have had many conversations on this and I will say that not everyone agrees with me. Another argument is will the author hurt themselves with fans if they kill off the main character? I feel that if you write that way and stop becoming an author and write just to please the fans, you fall stale. Fans might be pissed at an author for a while, but when they bring out a new brilliant book that is brand new, they will come back and possibly respect you more for taking the huge risk and it is a huge risk, which is probably why none of the big authors have taken that plunge. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject, just simply leave your comments or email me at email@example.com