Single Books vs. Series

Single Books vs. Series

I came across an interesting (well, to me, anyway) debate between a critic of book series and a writer who took up the cause of defendig them, and the authors who write them.

The original post, critical of series, is here.  Blogger/Author  Scott Southard asks “Writers, why does everything need to be a series?” and says, in part:

Like a seed, a book idea begins small. So very small. Maybe it is a flash of an image, or maybe it is a question that needs to be answered. Whatever the case, it grows and grows until finally a novel emerges fully grown.

Yes, I consider writing and creating a very organic experience. And when I am done with a book, I’m happy to have one “tree.”

So I can’t help wondering why do so many writers today want to grow a forest?

My personal answer, having written four books in the Dream series so far with a fifth on the way is, I love the characters, and I was able to come up with (what I think are) good ideas and good stories to tell about and with them, so I kept writing.  I didn’t initially plan to write a second book after “Dream Student”, but I enjoyed writing about Sara, and since she was only 21 years old, she had a whole life ahead of her.  And following her to medical school was a pretty obvious hook for a sequal.  “Dream Doctor” ends with Sara pregnant, and the idea of her child sharing her talent (and all the possibilities that arose from that) made “Dream Child” impossible not to write.  And so on…

Southard has a lot to say, but I don’t really agree with any of it.  And neither does author Katrina Randall feels the same way.  As she says in her rebuttal to Southard:

I love authors who give me more (sorry if I sound like an AT&T commercial). Give me a trilogy, give me a series of 10. If I like the story, then I can’t get enough of it — Babysitters Club, Vampire Diaries, Sookie Stackhouse, Harry Potter, Twilight, Sarah Douglas’ Axis Trilogy, Tanya Huff’s Wizard of the Grove, Louise Cooper’s Time Master Trilogy. I read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, which Southard says was a “philosophical mess,” and which I can’t remember, so it’s possible he was right there. But overall, I haven’t been disappointed; it’s not like the movies where the second one is never as good as the first. In my experience, book sequels rock.

I’m not saying they should go on forever. Every story has an expiration date as does life. But if an author can give me a little more, a little longer of a world I cherish, then I’m perfectly content to read on. And I know there are a lot of readers out there who feel the same way. Otherwise, all the books in a series wouldn’t be doing so well.

Refuting the greatness of the book series, Southard gives  us an example of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, where in several paragraphs, the main character walks the reader through all the outcomes that happen after the book ends. While he seems to think this is just great, I say what’s the fun in that? I want the book. I want to keep living those characters’ lives. That’s when you know you’ve found a great story teller, when you’re sad the book has ended and you’re clamoring to get the second one in the series, and then the third and so on.

Please chime in with your thoughts!

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