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.