As I get closer and closer to sleep, my brain tends to wander just like anyone else's. But the questions I end up asking myself often have to do with the things I've read or seen within the pages of my books. Tonight, I find myself wondering about what qualities in a work of fiction, (or some non-fiction, depending upon the initial concept), make for a good series. What holds more appeal for readers? What are the pros and cons of having a story that takes up only one volume, and of extending into multiple volumes? In my personal preference, I enjoy both equally, but I have noticed that many other readers lean towards one or the other. And so, I'm curious: who would win in this battle of the books?
Alright, let's just start with the obvious. The length of any story is often one of the first factors a person considers when deciding whether or not they want to read something. A stand-alone is great if you just want a short read for a commute on the train or a quick-fix for your insatiable curiosity. But if you love detail and in-depth writing, or you like to spend a lot of time in one world, a series is the better way to go.
Round 2: Plot Development
Everyone loves a book that keeps them turning the pages, wanting to see what comes next. A series adds suspense, as the plot is drawn out over multiple novels, and allows for more backstory and explanation, whether it be about motivation, the location of the story, or simply adding in quirky details that make the world come alive even more for the reader. The added length in between the release of each installment also adds to the excitement of some readers. However, for those of us who are more impatient, (which I can be at times), this can sometimes lead to binge-reading, waiting until a series is complete before diving in. This is where the stand-alone books can sometimes win out. While a shorter story sacrifices the minute detail a series can possess, it can also cause the book to be more fast-paced and exciting.
This is arguably the most influential aspect on the success of any given book. Overall, readers like to be able to relate to the individuals and creatures that reside within the pages. If all of you will allow a cheesy comparison for a moment, creating a connection with a character is like building a new friendship. Some, like the stand-alone novels, are quick or instantaneous. You feel like you know the character and you grow to like them within a few chapters, but by the end of the story, you may not know them as well as you'd like. The series are more like a slow-blooming, intimate friendship. It takes you a while to learn who they are, but by the end of multiple books, you feel as though you know them well enough to know how they would act or think in any given situation. Both have their own merits and flaws of course, so varying by author or character, a reader can often go one way or the other.
Round 4: Quality vs. Quantity
Many readers can bring up the argument that length plays a role in the quality of any given novel/series. This can sometimes be true, especially with series. Due to the immense popularity of any of their given works, an author might feel obligated to turn a stand-alone into a series in order to appease their readers. The opposite can be true as well. An author might feel as if they've created the first in a whole world's worth of stories, only to find that the text is strong enough to stand on it's own or that the story feels finished. Plenty of stories have suffered in quality because of this, (the Daughters of the Moon series comes to mind for me). Some authors even do this on purpose, drawing you in with a new book and leaving their readers hanging for a while, hoping that you will pick up more of their work while waiting for a sequel to what you just read. Sneaky, right? But I have found many other excellent books that way. Personally, I prefer quality over quantity, because waiting for something blows me out of the water, so to speak, is so much better than just reading something passable.
So, in your mind, what's better: a stand-alone, or a series? To be completely honest with all of you fellow bibliomaniacs, I really can't decide. I have enjoyed both kinds immensely, and for different reasons. But of course, now I'm curious. Which do you prefer? Let me know in the survey below, and I'll see you on the next post.