Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Twilight Effect kicked off a big trend in publishing not unlike dominoes falling. We saw a fixation on a new paranormal creature that resulted in an abundance of, for instance, werewolves. Like the vampires before them, they were suddenly everywhere, flooding the shelves at bookstores, becoming many teenagers' new obsession.
But this is not the aspect of the Twilight Effect I want to talk about. Not because it isn't worth talking about, simply because everyone else already has, and we all know that it will continue. People will fixate on one creature or genre until the 'next big thing' comes out. Rinse. Repeat.
The thing that has my attention these days is the abundance of series we have on our hands. It's almost like an epidemic in the fantasy and science fiction genres of YA. While we could blame this bit on JK Rowling, the Harry Potter books have been out for years without inspiring this mass desire for sequels. We can, however, thank Rowling for kicking authors everywhere into gear and bringing children's literature to a new level.
Now then: the series, and more specifically the trilogy. A good series is fantastic. It takes a lot of skill to craft multiple books with a self-contained plot and give each book a portion of an overlying plot arc. There are lots of characters to take into consideration, not to mention the MC's growth over, not just one book, but sometimes five or more. That being said, you can see how there can easily be a lot of problems with a series. They can go on too long, they can get saggy and dull in the middle, they can lose focus of what is important. They can stop being true to the characters.
And because of this, as a writer, you have to ask yourself if your story really has to be part of a series. Not all books do. If you're writing a trilogy because they're hot right now, and they are, then you're writing it that way for the wrong reason. You need to take a look at your story and decide if multiple books are necessary to tell the tale that you want to write, because if it's not then it's okay for your book to be a standalone novel. Really, it is.
In fact, as a reader, I'm getting tired of series. I'm not going to stop reading them any time soon (most of my favorite books are part of a trilogy right now or a longer series anyway), but I would like to read a nice paranormal YA that ties everything up and ENDS. I would like to not have to wait a year or longer for the next installment of a story (Hi there, Sookie.). I would like to be in the position of yearning for more of a character and NOT GETTING IT. Why? Because sometimes it's nice to just wonder.
At the end of Z by Michael Thomas Ford (my review here), something BIG happens and you want to know more. You want to know what the character does next, how he will react, but the author deliberately chose to leave his readers in the dark. And I kind of love him for it. I can imagine a hundred different scenarios now of how his story played out, and none of them have to be wrong. I can get to know that character on a more personal level because of that ending, specifically because it's left open.
I think authors (mostly in the science fiction/fantasy genres) have begun to turn their backs on the standalone novel in hopes of big book deals and huge sales numbers, but there is power in a single book. You can write a series, and you SHOULD if that's what your story NEEDS to be complete, to get all the details out there, but you really shouldn't be writing a trilogy (or any other kind of series) unless it's vital to your plot.
Just because there's a trend bandwagon, doesn't mean you have to jump on it.
What do you think? Are trilogies and longer series over done? Would you like to see more single title books?