Monday, May 13, 2013

When Good Series Go Bad...


As one of my favorite television series (based on one of my favorite book series growing up; the original L.J. Smith Vampire Diaries Trilogy) comes to a season 4 series finale, I can’t help my utter dissapointment.- Not because I’ll have to wait four months for the show to start back up again, but because this season was just so... bad.

I don’t know what happened. It's like the writers got so caught up in the plot (which was much weaker than usual), they forgot about the importance of their character arcs and development. Up until now, there had been a steady deepening and growth in each of their main characters over the course of every season that really made the show come alive. This season, however, not only did their characters' development come to a grinding halt, but they actually regressed. Or, when that was too much trouble, they just got killed off altogether. *sigh*

And it got me thinking, when I asked the agent I sent the R&R to why she preferred I make my book a stand-alone rather than the first in a series, she explained that a lot of YA authors today tend to over-do it with a series and it’s definitely felt by their readers. 
I couldn’t help but agree.

After all, when an author is writing a series because they tend to sell more copies than stand-alones, some very scary things can in sue.

The author can get bored and resort to using the same old tried-and-true plots and plot devices. I’ve definitely gotten tired while reading serialized romance books. After the first three or four, I could see the same storylines being used over and over again and lost interest.

The author can get bold. Which can be good thing. Or not so much. Like in the case of poor L.J. Smith, who wanted to stop the Vampire Diaries at three books but was pushed to write more by her fans and publisher. Which led to downright weird plot twists involving things like angel wings, Japanese anime antagonists and other dimensions. Not good.

The author can get cocky. When a series is really popular, some authors take liberties they wouldn’t have otherwise taken with the mindset that anything and everything they do will turn to gold and be appreciated by their fans. Yeah. No.

I think it’s easy for authors to picture writing a series, especially when they feel really close to their characters. They want to spend as much time with them as they can BUT, if the passion and the vision don’t follow, some stories really are better off being wrapped up in one volume.

What do you guys think? Have you ever read a series where the author should have/could have stopped after one or two books? In what cases do you think more books are necessary for the author and the reader?

31 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

This is a tough one. Having grown up on epic fantasy, where everything is at least a trilogy, I tend to like books that are series, but I do see your point about stretching things that never should have been a series in the first place.

I can't think of any examples in literature, but I definitely lost interest in True Blood after season 2.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I can think of a whole bunch of series (serieses? what is the plural of series or is it already plural?) where I lost enjoyed the first book but was not interested enough to read the second. Or follow up on the third. (I enjoyed Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, but haven't felt a burning need to get Clockwork Princess yet. Anybody want to weigh in on that one?)

I think I am more likely to read all the way through a trilogy if the books are already out. When I have to wait a year in between, I lose interest. This may speak more to my attention span than to the quality of the books in the series.

Most of my MG students will compulsively read through an entire series without getting bored. My daughter is like that too. At her urging, I am reading TUNNELS right now. She has already purchased all the sequels for her Kindle (which is linked to my Kindle), but even though they are at my fingertips, I don't know if I will want to read past this first one.

2019TrevorP said...

I find series few and far between that I really look forward to reading each one. But many fans do, so maybe writers as readers are the exception?

I usually lose interest. Honestly, I love finding a stand alone that doesn't end on a cliffhanger, or that at least doesn't leave me completely hanging. Honestly, when an author cuts off the story in the middle of the climax, I'm too mad, so I don't read book 2. To me, that's not a cliffhanger.

Em-Musing said...

After reading Fifty Shades of Grey...I stopped the series, reading it that is. One was enough. Actually, I've written a series, but pitch it as a stand alone book with outlines for two more. That way I don't scare an agent away.

Cheree Smith said...

I find this happens a lot, especially with the longer series. I lose interest around book 4 and then before I realise it they're already up to book 8 and I have no idea how they can have that much story left to tell.

Same can be said with TV shows. I haven't caught up with Vampire Diaries (seriously still on season 2), but I used to love Glee and this season I've just been thinking why didn't they end the series when everyone graduated instead of trying to get just "one more season" in... sometimes it's just best to call it quits while it's still popular than losing all the fans because they become frustrated.

Natalie Aguirre said...

There are so many books coming out that if I'm not in love with book 1, I won't read the rest of the series. But there are many series that I love and enjoy reading the rest of the books in the series because I care about the characters and want to see what happens to them.

I think with TV shows it's really easy for them to go on too long and I lose interest and stop watching them.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

If I sense a book is going to be a never ending series, I don't buy the next one. I remember enjoying the house of nights series, but after a few books it became ridiculous and there was no end in sight. I prefer series with a definite ending already figured out when the author writes the first book, like a trilogy.

Maybe this issue is why Ian and Nina's real life relationship died. The on screen characterization faded away, taking their relationship with it. lol

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sure, I've given up on series that ran out of steam. It becomes really obvious when reading those that the author is just going through the motions. That's why my series is stopping at three no matter what.

SA Larsenッ said...

If there is more story to tell and great characters, I say go for it. However, those two elements must be present - in there lies the secret. Without both of those, more books in a series begins to sound redundant; frankly, it becomes irritating and feels like marketing.

shelly said...

I agree with SA Larson.

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I think it happens when writers are pushed to keep a series going long past the joy of it. It's when the decision to add more to the story is based on dollar signs and not a nudge from the muse.

Summer Ross said...

series- that's something to struggle with. There are a few authors that pull off series quite well Karen Moning and Kim Harrison are on the top of my list. But I'm not sure if my book is series material. I thought i might try it but the more I think about it the more I'm leaning towards not.

Kristin Rae said...

I'm with you on TVD. This season has been falling apart and most weeks I ask why I'm still watching it.

There have been a few book series where I ask myself why I'm still reading it, but I am a slow reader, so if I hear the rest of the books in the series fell apart, I probably won't read on. Our time is precious!
I think that agent with the R&R was smart. I'd like to see more epic standalones than series that lose their zip by the third book.

Ru said...

I have nothing to add, really, but my total agreement that The Vampire Diaries has gotten way off track this season. I don't care about the plot, AT ALL, and the characterization (particularly for Damon, Rebecca, and Klaus) has been completely schizophrenic.

Carrie-Anne said...

I know I'm dating myself, but I'm not a fan of wandering series like The Babysitters' Club or Sweet Valley High. They both started out fairly well, but ultimately became more about ghostwritten product than quality, and the series' trajectories didn't really seem to follow a real storyline. They were just bricks in the wall, no end in sight, and of course the timewarp.

I love writing series and family sagas, but with an end in sight. It might take several generations, but there's a clear ending point being worked towards (fall of the Soviet Union, death of title character/family matriarch at 120, great-grandfather dying and ending an era). I didn't realize that writers aren't encouraged to plan their own series when they're not published, but I can't very well unwrite my series or ditch people I've been with for over 20 years.

Old Kitty said...

I've not yet read a book series where I thought, nuff already (I think for me it's the opposite - I want more and hope they don't stop!! LOL!) but I have watched a few tv shows where I thought, please, end this now and bow out with dignity. Like Frasier. They should have stopped at Season 6!

Take care
x

TC Avey said...

Some series are GREAT! But there are times I wish the author would just wrap it up and stop wasting my time.

Lexa Cain said...

I loved "Vampire Diaries" when it first came out. There were so many exciting twists and interesting characters. But it didn't change enough during the seasons. I got very tired of the love triangle -- Elena isn't all that. So I just stopped watching and I don't miss it.
Good luck with your R&R!! :-D

Mel Chesley said...

Yeah, the House of Night series got to the point where it was so repetitive I had to stop before I got ticked off. But there are others that I've read that got bad before the third book. Seems like that's the way a series will go, T.V. or books... there is always a bad season/book stuck in the middle somewhere.

Rachel said...

I totally get this. I have read a lot of (in particular YA) series where I enjoyed the first book but didn't fall in love with it so much that I wanted to read the rest of the series. I am only on season 1 of Vampire Diaries so I don't have much to say on that end, but you make very excellent points here Katie. :)

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Coleen Patrick said...

I've read series where the whole story feels stretched--and then I start skimming. Oh and I have 4 eps of Vampire Diaries on my DVR. I keep ignoring them. I don't want to lose interest in it, but I guess I have.:(

Donna Hole said...

I hate it when a series loses its appeal in just a few episodes, or novels. Your points are good for any author to keep in mind.

......dhole

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I've found myself let down by series' all too often. Even trilogies, the most tried and tested series format, have disappointed me because of a lackluster ending.

The other thing you can often see happening with a long-running series is that the author can end up steering it away from previous formats. The Dresden Files, being on book 14 now, has steadily shifted from pulp detective stories that involve magic into modern-day epic fantasy.

Ash-Matic said...

I totally agree with the dangers you point out. I've also given up on a couple of TV series that go off the rails.

I always thought, if I ever get around to writing a multi-volume work, I'd treat it as one extended epic-length story with appropriate sub-climaxes and plot curves, rather than have each volume as a separate adventure, to keep myself on track.

jaybird said...

I agree with you on the Vampire Diaries front. I felt that HBO ruined the Southern Vampire series for me. I used to love Charlaine Harris and her books, but watching True Blood killed it for me.

Gina Gao said...

I've always told myself to watch the Vampire Diaries, but I just never had the time to. Personally, I've never come across a bad series or sequel yet.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I think you're right. Just like in a successful NBA career, you have to know when to stop. I don't read a lot of series, and I think it's because I've been disappointed once or twice so now I'm gun shy. :) Yay for stand alones!

D.G. Hudson said...

Yes, even good authors can lose interest if overextended. I usually don't read serials, books by the same author, yes, but they're usually of the epic variety involving multiple worlds (scifi)and continue moving forwards.

I've lost interest in a few fantasy series because of their becoming a little OTT.

Mike Cronis said...

I always have an initial difficulty understanding why women love these immature romance novels, and then I realize I'm 43 and I still like Star Wars, and it all makes sense again.

DL Hammons said...

I totally agree with you about Vampire Diaries! I actually gave up on it at the end of last year, so I guess I saved myself the grief of suffering through this year. I did the same thing with Supernatural, which is another series that has run TOO LONG! :)

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