Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Serials: When Good Stories Don't End.

As I’ve said before I’m an avid reader; have been most of my life.  I read constantly, and there are always books waiting for me when I’m done.  I read across genres and mediums.  This of course doesn’t make me an expert, but I do have very strong opinions on what I like and don’t like.  This post will be the first in a series where I talk directly to those of you writing…not as a writer myself, but as a reader.

Today’s topic:  The End…WTF, it’s not over.  Series and serials.

I love a series.  If the writing is good or the characters and the world are compelling I’m hooked.  I have followed series to their natural end, and have even roughed through some that should have ended books earlier.  But I’ve noticed a trend, at least in the romance and YA genres, which really pisses me off:  Serials billed as Series.

So what’s the difference?

In literature, a serial is a publishing format by which a single large work, most often a work of narrative fiction, is presented in contiguous (typically chronological) installments -Wikipedia

A book series is a sequence of books having certain characteristics in common that are formally identified together as a group. -Wikipedia

Series will often have a continuing plot and characters that are present in all of the books, building up to a thrilling (hopefully) conclusion.  Serials are the continuation of the same story through a number of books.  It might be a small distinction, but it’s crucial to me.

I want my stories to end.  I need that satisfying “aha” at the end of a novel.  The non-endings of serials are incredibly frustrating to me, especially when I don’t see them coming.  I’ve hopped out of my bed at two in the morning livid at an author for essentially telling me “…to be continued.” , instead of “The End.”  This is the fastest way to get me to tell my friends, “don’t read that book, you’ll be disappointed.”

I realize the draw of serials for publishers and author; they can draw in readers and create a fan base that will follow you from book one to five to twenty five, but know your definition before you bill your story as a series.  If you’re book ends without a climax, but instead has a ‘hook’ then you’re writing a serial.

I crave the rise and fall of traditional storytelling.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a continuing mystery in a series a thread that works its way through the stories, but each novel needs to have its own story, its own mystery, its own rise and fall.    Without this,  all you have is a extraordinarily long novel that would put George RR Martin to shame. 

So tell me a story.  Give me a start and an0 ending.  Don’t leave me hanging!!

Gina Drayer

1 comment:

  1. I suppose it's a good thing that Amazon added the Kindle Serials option then. At least you know what you're getting.

    There have been a few books I've read recently that had a "TO BE CONTINUED" ending and I wanted to scream.

    Mind you - I'm just about to release a teaser short story that starts off a full series and that doesn't resolve. So errr I'll head back to my quiet corner I guess :)