Friday, January 23, 2015

THE SERIES SERIES Discussion: In Defense of the Series Format

We've all been there.

You're talking to someone about a book, and you get asked the question, "...but is this the start of a series?"

If you say yes, they crinkle up their nose and begin quietly backing away from you.

If you say no, they give a sigh of relief and maybe even read the book.

Here's the thing.  Sometimes you just need a stand alone novel.  Maybe you don't have the energy to commit to a whole series.  Maybe you've been disappointed in a series in the past.  Maybe you've experienced the second-book-slump one too many times.  Maybe you hate it when middle books in a series don't actually have a hook, rising action, climax, falling action, and a resolution like stories are supposed to, but just continue the general story without being its own individual novel.  (<--- A personal grievance of mine.)  Maybe you have no real reason, you just don't feel like starting a series.

All of these reasons are valid!  Stand alone novels are wonderful things!  Some of my favorite books are stand alones!  Let me be clear that I am not in any way saying that you shouldn't read stand alone novels.  By all means, gobble them up if you want to.  All hail the stand alone.


I really, really love a good series.  Although they can be risky, the payoff can be also be huge.  Making the investment in a series can definitely be worth it.  I am here to give you a few reasons why, just maybe, you could consider starting a series next time instead.  Here are a few benefits to reading a book series instead of a stand alone novel:

1. Series are Longer

Now, obviously, this is a two-edged sword.  If you don't love a series, it can be frustrating to have to read multiple novels just to get a sense of closure.  But, there are also some serious pros to a longer story.  For one, the extra time allows you to get to know several minor characters in addition to the protagonist(s).  Also, the extra time allows for several more side-plots to develop as well.  Think of everything you would miss if the Harry Potter series stopped after the first book: No Sirius, Lupin, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Luna, Mr. Crouch, Dobby, Diggory, Victor Krum, Slughorn, Cho, Kreacher, or Crookshanks.  (There'd also be no Umbridge, Bellatrix, or Greyback, which would be oddly nice.  But it's worth it to have them if I can also have everyone else.)  Plus, you'd never see Hagrid become a professor; never see Sirius' vindication; never see Scabbers' final justice; never know what happened to the Malfoys; never discover Neville's sad history; etc.  You wouldn't even know what a horcrux was.  Now really.  I love that first book, but the story is so much bigger than The Sorcerer's Stone, and I can't tell you how glad I am that Rowling didn't stop there.  I know you might be thinking, "Well, that's Harry Potter.  Not every story is that engaging or that well-developed."  And you would be right.  Not every long story is a good story just because it's long.  But, do remember that the long length doesn't just mean you have more pages to wade through.  It often times means more meat to chew, so to speak.  And those extra pages might be delicious.

2. Series are Less Predictable

Every story has to follow an arc of some kind.  Standalone novels can be surprising, I'm not saying they can't.  But consider the multiple-book format: not only do you have an overarching story arc, you also have individual story arcs within each novel.  Each of those arcs have to be different from the arc in the previous book(s), and therefore by necessity must hold surprises in order to make itself distinct from the other books in the cannon.  If you had told me after the first book in The Song of Ice and Fire series what characters I would be rooting for in book 5, I never would have believed you.  (Except for Daenerys.  She's the bomb.)  Of course, this can backfire.  For example, if you expect certain things or events to happen in a series' final novel and it doesn't, it can be frustrating and disappointing, and even enraging.  I know, I've been there.  But, oftentimes, it's that very unpredictability that makes those disappointing endings possible that also makes the wildly fulfilling endings possible.  Good, solid endings wouldn't be so successful if there was never even a chance for a terrible ending.  (If it's a satisfying ending you're looking for, might I recommend The Grisha Series, The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, The Seven Realms Series, and/or the Under the Never Sky series.)

3. Series Give You More to Love

Say you read a book, and you like it.  One of the first things I do when I'm done is check and see if that author has written anything else.  If they've written a series, BINGO.  I'm way more likely to read theirs than a series by someone I've never read before, since I've already had a positive experience with their writing style.  Besides, if you find a book you love, it's natural to want to spend more time in that book's world.  And if it's the start of a series, you can!  You are guaranteed a whole separate book (or even books!) completely devoted to that story and world!  It's a glorious thing!  I am currently reading the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, and, might I just say, this series is a huge testament to the idea that series give you more to love.  With each new book that comes out I fall more in love with this ever-expanding world.  On a related vein, I've started many a series that didn't have all its installments released yet.  That time between books when you wait for the next sequel to be released, while torturous, has also allowed me to make friends with other bookish people who are suffering the same agonizing fate as I am.  We share our speculation, our predictions, our excitement, and, ultimately, our thoughts on each new installment, and basically fangirl ourselves into happiness.  While a big part of me will always want the next book of whatever series I'm reading IMMEDIATELY, I've loved those fangirly  interactions with others, and wouldn't trade them for the world.  Like I said, series give you more to love.

Have I convinced you?  Do you like reading series?  What other benefits would you add to this list?


  1. What I love the most about a series, when the writing and the story are both good, is the chance to dive back into that world again. One of the saddest things about standalone that's such a good read is you don't get to go back except for a reread.

    1. Totally! That is a major positive to a series. I'm glad you pointed that out, because it's one of my favorite things about series as well.

  2. I agree with every single one of your points! :D

  3. I, like Jenni, totally agree with you. I'm fine with a series. There are those series I am committed to that I'd rather not be but mostly, besides not being able to remember stuff from book to book in a series, I love them.

    1. Me too! I love series. Most of the time. They can be so great, which is why I always keep picking them up.


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