Public Service Annoucement — Novel Series

There is something comforting about reading a well-written and engaging fiction series—multiple books that star the same protagonist and world, with a larger story deftly woven into the background. Not only have you, the reader, entered a wonderful new world, you’ve been invited to stay in a warm and safe cocoon to watch as it unfolds before you.  The caveat is each book can and should be able stand on its own as a substantially complete tale.

Imagine that series as a bedtime story.  What if the author suddenly snapped the book shut, clicked off the light and walked out without even tucking you in, just a yelled “g’night!” from the hallway? You’d feel let down and unloved, wouldn’t you?

Authors…please don’t do that to us.  Please don’t let the bad guy have gotten away and put the protagonist in even graver danger than you established in the novel we just read.  A vague, lingering threat is okay.  A big, bad imminent one is not.

Please don’t give us an unrequited love with the love interest left alone and reactionless, as his or her admirer runs off in defeated humiliation post confession. At least give us a peek inside the mind of the object of affection, even the tiniest of gestures will suffice.  Better yet, don’t permit the confession in the first place if you want to sustain the romantic tension.

No matter the long-running conflict, do not use a heavy hand to entice us back!  Keep it subtle; dull the edge a bit.  The preponderance of the conflict you set up in THIS novel should be resolved by the time you write “The End” and shamelessly plug THAT novel.  A suggestively crooked finger to tantalize us is fine and even expected; a hook through the gills is not. 

In 2010, I read at least three novels that ended with the author’s figurative “nanner-nanner, you can’t catch me”.  Oh, I read or will read the next in the series, of course.  I would have anyway, but I resented being taken hostage.  Write the predecessor story with so much charm and potential for future intrigue that we are dying to come back, not because you forced us, but because we want to return.  Slowly hook us with your literary nicotine and you’ll have an addict for life.

This has been a public service announcement from your average Joe Schmo reader.

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7 thoughts on “Public Service Annoucement — Novel Series

  1. I agree. It is somewhat annoying to get to the end and realise the story hasn’t even finished–especially when you have a 6-12 month wait for the next installment to be released. Yes, I write novels starring the same group of characters, but I think of them more as a series than a sequel or whatnot. The second in my series has the same mc as the first, and the third, which I’m currently writing, revolves around the same family but with a different pov to add in a new dimension for the reader. As far as I’m aware, my second novel can be read without the first for support, and I intend to achieve tha for the third, also. 🙂

  2. You got on your soapbox their, din’t ya? 😉 Ha! Actually, I’m with you. I love to close out the story but know there is more. Each story should end … but there should still be stuff that COULD be told ongoing … want you to know that one part finished and more is coming, but not in an ‘evil’ ‘don’t look behind the curtain’ way. 🙂

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  4. Authors…please don’t do that to us.

    …or you will be kneecapped.

    Go on, try to tell me you weren’t thinking exactly that. 😀

  5. I really agree with this. Very well put. Way too many authors have gotten too comfortable with cliffhangers.

    A lot of times, the beginning of the next book doesn’t even bother to deal with the cliffhanger in a meaningful way, just cleans it up fast so we can dive into the real story.

    I just finished Firelight, and the end of it so blatantly forced you to read the following book, that I got all disgusted and put it back. It was a great book in many areas. The ending was more manipulation than I could accept. Frustrating when the book had so much promise!

    -Mandy

    • I do the same as you sometimes, refuse to buy the next in the series because honestly if I have to wait for it to come out, all the tension has drained by then, leaving only the bad taste of its unsatisfactorily concluded predecessor. I’ve had more problems with this in the YA category and maybe that’s a testimony to the average teen’s loyalty to a great character. Admirable on the teen’s part, but too easily taken advantage of by the author/publisher.

      Alternatively, it makes me wonder how much the author should have chopped out of book #1 and book #2 to make them a single book with a brisker pacing.

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