31 October 2010

One Versus Many

Don't worry, this is not a 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few' post! *grin* But, writing A Piece of String earlier this week got me to thinking about the standalone novel versus the series. Which do you prefer?

I'm actually on the fence with this one... If you read a standalone and love the world-building and the characters and...well, everything, then you automatically want more and end up trolling the Internet for any information on a potential sequel (with the subsequent despondency when you realize that there is no sequel). I did this earlier this year when I read Tigers & Devils (Sean Kennedy) [expounded in Rainy Days and Mondays] and I do it every time I re-read To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts). In the former novel I want a sequel (desperately!) so that I can spend more time with the characters (whom I love); in the latter I want to explore more of the world-building, which is fascinating!

With a series, I get to go back again, and again...and again. And that's a good thing (see above), right? Mostly... There are definitely some series I think should have stopped a looong time ago. Series that are going...nowhere. I think with for a series to work you need something new served up with the familiar...you need the connection (for example, characters and/or an overall plot arc) across the series but you also need to be hooked and engaged anew with each novel, whether it is with new characters or with the development of old characters. I think Nalini Singh does this very well with her Psy-Changeling series.

So, standalone or series...or does it depend? And is there a standalone novel that you think should have a sequel...or two?

8 comments:

  1. Orannia, without a question I prefer a good standalone. If it's well done and developed with that perfect ending then it doesn't need a sequel or anything else. And even if there's something there that makes me think, ponder, wonder... sometimes that's okay with me too and I prefer to re-visit those characters there, in that one story.

    However, I do enjoy series, usually shorter ones or trilogies with an ending in sight. At this point I don't seem to have much of a choice -- there aren't TOO many standalones out there at the moment. Sequels, sequels, and more sequels... they're found in all genres: historical, fantasy, PNR, contemporary... I could go on and on. :)

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  2. Hils - I too love a good standalone novel. I suppose I just get greedy on occasion and want...well, more :) And you're right, there really aren't that many standalone novels. I thought Ilona Andrews' On The Edge and Bayou Moon was just a two-book series, but it seems there is a third. I wonder if the endless sequels is something the authors want or something the publishers want?

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  3. If I had to chose I'd pick a standalone, just because I'd much prefer to be left wanting a sequel rather than seeing a series drag on to death.

    I don't really dislike series, generally, but it seems that there's this tendency for authors/publishing not wanting to call it quits. They end up making up random connections between new characters and established ones just so they can say that that book is part of the super popular series--Jo Beverly with Rothgar is the perfect example of this. It's insane.

    The Psy/Changeling series is the only one that I've ever enjoyed as a whole. Most of my series reading is just because I like the author/the story sounds good as a standalone, and I read it without caring about the whole series. But Singh is such a phenomenal writer who so obviously has a plan instead of just randomly making stuff up to continue with the series, and that's the key difference. A series HAS to have a strong, underlying plot weaving it all together, and most series in romance don't have that.

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  4. Lenzia - yes, yes, yes! There are definitely some series that should have called it quits a looong time ago IMHO! And WRT the random connections - yes. For some reason Stephanie Laurens' Cynster series springs to mind. The connections were just ridiculous...and I got very annoyed with the cookie cutter perfect heroines! My favourite will always be Honoria! And yes WRT the Psy-Changeling series. Not sure if you've ever watched the TV series Babylon 5, but that is great (TV) example of snippets of information being dropped to allow the viewer to piece together the jigsaw plot. Nalini does the same thing, and it so works!

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  5. It definitely depends--and there are quite a few series that should have stopped as trilogies, IMNSHO *coughCarpathianscough*.

    There are writers capable of keeping their characters' voices fresh through multiple books. Nalini Singh has done a wonderful job with her Psy/Changelings. Nora Roberts/JDRobb is still going strong with her In Death books. Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters have had a couple of weaker installments of late, but I think she'll come back.

    But there are also books that I love and re-read over and over that are stand alones--Morning Glory is the first to come to mind each time. My love for that novel is beyond description. The magic of it, for me, is that the setting is so real that all the story is about the characters--and it ends in such a way as to tie all ends while giving the reader the certainty that they'll keep going strong, living their 'ordinary' lives to the fullest regardless of what obstacles and trials life throws at them next.

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  6. azteclady - see, I've never read the Carpathian series...I think it's one of those series I referred to in A Piece of String - just too big. I completely agree with Nalini - I kept seeing her series used as an example of a writing (and an overall plot arc) that has stayed strong. I must confess to having a few issues with the In Death series of late...I want Roarke to stop involving himself in various crimes. I know lots of people love that aspect, but in the last book Eve handed him a piece of evidence that IIRC she hadn't checked in yet!

    I'm sorry, I haven't read Morning Glory....yet :) Maybe I should try it? *grin*

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  7. I have to say that if a stand alone is fabulous then I definitely want more. But if I never end up getting more I tend to appreciate the single novel all the more for its uniqueness.

    I love series as well though and you're right - there are several that should have stopped LONG ago! lol

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  8. Tracy - that is how I feel about To Ride Hell's Chasm...and Tigers & Devils, but...you're right, without a sequel you come to appreciate each book as it is :) As for series that should have stopped...I'm tempted to write a post asking for suggestions! *grin*

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