Studious Saturday: The impact of books in a series

studious saturdays

 

Happy Saturday! I have stumbled upon several reviews in the Book Blogging community this week on Lethal White, the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. They made consider the impact of books in a series and the key techniques used by authors to create a well perceived series. I have decided to explore these thoughts on this week’s Studious Saturday post and analyse these methods in further detail…

• Continuity in the story line

Something we all look for, perhaps even subconsciously, upon starting the next book in a series is the continuity in the story line. Many authors decide to disregard this aspect, especially those in a detective series where the crime scene changes each time. Nevertheless, continuity is a key technique used to remind the reader how the last book ended and flow into the story line of the new book. If a series doesn’t have any degree of continuity the plot may seem uneven and rushed.

• Character development

Most series include the same characters with perhaps a few new characters introduced in each new book. If there is no character development the plot appears stagnant and the reader may lose interest. However, that is not to say that characters must always be likable; in fact the most disliked characters are often unpopular because of the events leading up to a plot twist or milestone which indicates character progression. As characters grow and their traits are gradually revealed, the story line also matures and progresses to create a rich and engaging plot and advance the story line to the next book.

• Changes in pace

Pace has a crucial impact on how readers perceive a book and if they decide to read the complete series. In particular, pacing is often difficult to master depending on the genre. Adventure or fantasy series such as The Hunger Games usually have significant changes in the pacing throughout each book to encourage an element of surprise. In contract, the pace in a mystery or crime series often doesn’t change much until the very end where a plot twist is revealed to evoke tension and suspense. It is also important that the pace doesn’t change drastically between each book in a series to ensure that it doesn’t break up the continuity, although this arguably also depends on genre and I realise may affect certain genres more than others.

• Ending

Also linked to continuity, I believe that the ending of each book should reflect the writing and story line so far. It may not be justified to end a book in a series on a cliff hanger if there have been few hints of plot twists or surprises. On the other hand, an expected or neutral ending may not be as memorable and the reader may not be as willing to continue the series. However, depending on expectations, genre and other factors, a certain kind of ending may create a greater impact and interest the reader more.

• Does it measure up to the previous book in the series?

I think this is perhaps the most important point and something we all reflect on. Very often the first book in a series is considered the “best” for a variety of reasons. We may decide to skip the next books because they don’t measure up to the first one or even the previous one. This point consists of all the previous ones – continuity, pace and character development. If one aspect falters it could have a huge influence on our perception and therefore may not be as willing to set time apart to read the whole series.

Question

What traits do you think contribute to a successful series? Do you compare books in a series to each other and does this have an impact on the series as a whole?

If you have read this far then thank you for taking the time to consider this week’s reflections. I realise that this discussion post is more subjective and is not as balanced as it may be but I decided to post it anyway and open up this discussion to the community.