The Crucible · Writing

A Series of Novel Events

Here’s a hypothetical question; How many books does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer; It depends on how long the book(s) you’re reading take(s) to make the lightbulb over your head shine. *Rimshot*

I know, cheesy joke is cheesy.

But here’s another hypothetical question; How many books does it take to make a series? 2+? 3+? Is there even a set number?

I’ve seen some book series have 15+ stories and the authors are still going, while others write maybe three books and call it finished. It seems like the number of books in a series might also depend on the storyline tying them all together. Some series are about the same characters, some feature different characters dealing with the same problems in each book, and others have different stories and different characters tied together by nothing more than the fact that they exist in the same universe.

Thing is, it seems like there are a million series out there nowadays, and I’m not trying to say we need less series and more standalone reads. But in an oversaturated market (which the self publishing industry currently is), it’s hard to stand out when you’re doing the same thing a million other authors are doing. Some people have even complained that they’re tired of series, or that they forget about the series during the wait between books.

Unless I’ve found the author/stories to be particularly good, I have to admit, I tend to forget a lot, too. =|

So I guess what I’m getting at here is … a couple of things actually. In theory, writing a series of stories might be considered something like a “hook”; it draws readers back to see what happens in the next story, and the next, and so on. But perhaps this hook doesn’t work so well if you make someone wait for months on end or, for example, the previous book you’d written wasn’t memorable enough to remind them that they’re actually interested in getting their hands on that new story.

It also depends on what type of series you’re writing, and there are a few types, for instance;

Soap-Opera Series: Each book is closely tied to the next, features the same characters, and usually ends with a cliffhanger (the characters facing some situation without finding a resolution until the next story). I’d think these are the most likely to hook readers, but I could be wrong. Additionally, the books aren’t standalone, and reading the second before the first will basically spoil you.

All-in-the-Family Series: I call this one “All-in-the-Family” because each book had its own resolution, but the next might introduce a new problem for the same character(s) to undertake, or feature different people from the previous story as the new leads, perhaps written to show their side of things. Books might be standalone, or they might not, and may also end with cliffhangers.

In-Name-Only Series: Books that are a part of the same universe with the same sets of “rules”, but feature different stories each time that aren’t tied to a previous book, or only mention past events of prior stories in passing. Most books are standalone, and can be read out of order without worrying for spoilers or the need to understand what’s going on precisely. Also, if cliffhangers are present, they’re usually minor story points.

If I had to label The Crucible as any of these, I’d say it’s an “In-Name-Only” series (I’m sure there are professional names for these series somewhere, but I like my own labels lol). For example, The first book is about Cade and Ashley, but we don’t see them again until Book 3, and they only play a minor role. Book 2 is about Ulric and Charlotte, and we see very few characters from the first book here, though it possesses a continuation of a plot thread from the first book. Lastly, Book 4 is about two entirely new characters while some previously established characters make appearances and a few of the past plot threads are present, but if you wanted to read them in the order of 4,2,3,1, you likely wouldn’t be missing anything, nor spoiling yourself.

So which is your favorite type of read? Would you feel more inclined to pick up a “Soap-Opera” Series book that has several installments, knowing you wouldn’t need to wait long for answers? Or, if the series has fewer books, would you rather it be something like “In-Name-Only” so the suspense isn’t so bad?

I’d love to hear thoughts and opinions on this if anyone has the time/inclination to comment! Thanks guys, and I hope you’re having a wonderful, happy holiday season! :)

Cheers! :D

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