Serialitis

Blue streak of light on dirt road against cloudy sky

 

by Raymond M Coulombe

When is it time to end a book series? For example, did John Norman’s Chronicles of Gor really need thirty-four volumes? To be fair, someone must be reading them. The publishers must be selling them.

A series like the Gor novels isn’t exactly very deep. It’s basically fight scenes and erotica. Maybe that’s all John Norman has to offer, so he sticks with the formula.

That’s the thing about endless serials, they fall into patterns and the later books are all pretty much retelling the same story over and over again. How long can you follow a character’s growth and development? When does the actual growth of a character stop and they start going through the motions?

A common solution is to introduce endless subplots. Jordan’s Wheel of Time series falls into that category. Some of his subplots are so long and detailed that one forgets the main thrust of the story. Than can make it hard for the reader to care about the main story or to even keep reading the series. I admit to being one of those who gave up somewhere around book five.

Way back when I was a kid in Junior High School I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Imagine that, I thought, three whole good sized books. It seemed excessive to my young mind. After reading it I understood why it was as long as it was. That’s how long it took to tell the tale.

When you get right down to it, that’s how a series should be: long enough to tell the story. If you can continue developing the tale, go ahead and keep writing. If what you are doing is writing mostly feminist nightmare sex stories, maybe it’s time to put a fork in it.

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