Reading a Book Series and Writing One
For the last few weeks I have been reading Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series. I’m about half-way through Book Three, with Book Four and Book Five to follow. And it’s happened, like it always does. I am suddenly suffering Frankenstein fatigue.
I read Book One and Book Two at lightening speed, now I find myself plodding through Book Three (Dead and Alive). This makes me give up hope on actually finishing the series. But I have made a commitment to do so, so I will finish it.
So why does this happen to me all the time? Why do I get bored with a series or a trilogy, usually on book three? I was very interested in the answer since I’m currently writing my own series. I don’t want what happens to me to happen to my readers.
So, here is what I’ve discovered.
I get bored. Why? Because most series are built on, not only continuing the story, but taking whatever made the first book popular, and intensifying it. When I read book 2 or 3 or more, I want a new experience, not an escalating, rehashed plot. Less is more as they say, and more action, more violence, or more of whatever popularized book one, does not necessarily make a better sequel or trilogy or series.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, if the story needs to be told in two, three, or four novels, go for it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. I think Koontz’s Frankenstein series could have been written in one novel. It is pretty clear he is dragging out the plot, throwing things in there to shock or entertain or whatever.
So, these are the things I plan to apply to my own series.
First, when there is no more story to tell, I will stop writing it.
Second, the plot in each book will be different. Clara, my protagonist in Book Two of my historical series, will not go through the same spiritual journey as her brother, Michael, did in Book One. Who would want to read that all over again?
My books will also be stand alone novels. I want my readers to have a sense of fulfillment when they finish a book—no cliff hangers. And there will always be some sort of resolution—maybe uncertainty of the future, but a resolution to the present situation.
I am tempted to read the Little House books again. I loved them as a child, and I think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing may have had an unconscious influence on me. I read the complete series when I was ten years old. Something she did was right. I never lost interest in the Ingalls family. The books were the same, yet different.
Yes, I think it might be time to revisit an old friend.