I was reading some comments about an author’s long-running series the other day and it prompted some questions. The longest series I’ve ever written was five books (The Highland Lords) and it could probably have been done in three. I’m currently writing another trilogy – which is about as far as I want to go lately.
I imagine a really long series must pose problems for the author. Here are a few thoughts I had:
Ownership of the characters
When writing a book an author must feel as if she is the character. She has to know what the motivation/strengths/failings, etc are with each character. In a series the reader feels the same ownership, so if the author changes anything it’s going to be a betrayal to the reader.
What seemed good in book 1 might not work in book 10. Or looking back from book 10, you can twist the character slightly to give him/her new dimensions. I would assume an author would do that to give new direction to the series, new conflict, and also a new feel. Unfortunately, it would need to be done with a deft hand, because the reader has also grown to know the characters. I can remember some instances of books I’ve read where the character changed in the last chapter, became someone I didn’t know, and I felt betrayed by the author. I think the urge to be fresh and new would vie with the need to remain true to the characters.
Plain old burn out
After awhile, you’ve said all you can say, and done all you can do. There is a definite time to just stop, and yet, the series goes on and on and on. I can think of two series I read that have passed the stop sign, but probably due to economic reasons,the author is still writing the series.
How about you? Any problems you’ve seen with series?