Label Cloud

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Serial and the Hanging Ending

There is nothing I hate more in a book than a hanging ending. When I select a book at a bookstore, I am entering into an agreement with the author. I will pay for the book, devote time to reading, and in return the author will tell me a complete story. On the last page I will be left with the cherished feeling of both satisfaction and wistful regret that the book has come to an end.

However, there is an epidemic amongst certain genres that seem to be insisting that a hanging ending is acceptable. I'm looking at you The Golden Compass. It is not. If you need to leave your readers in suspense on the last page in order to ensure that they pick up the next book, you are not doing your job. Every book in a serial should have its own ending. Yes, the series can work on a larger overall plot (e.g. Voldemort), but you should still feel a satisfaction at the end of each book. A book in a series should be like a battle in the context of a war. The battle ends decisively, but the war continues.

In support of this argument, I present a list of ways to keep readers interested in your series:

1.) Characters - It's always important to have strong characters, but it's even more so in a series. Spend time exploring your main characters. Give them distinct personalities. Work on their charm. Make them accessible to readers. Write about real people. If you do that, people will want to continue with them on their journey.

2.) Romance - While it's important for characters to change somewhat in each book of a series, they are on a slower path than characters in a single novel. I would encourage you to build interpersonal relationships for your characters that grow from book to book. In particular, providing your character with a romantic interest is a great way to carry readers from book to book.

3.) World/Universe - Be creative! Since most serials are in the Sci-Fi or Fantasy genre, it is of utmost importance that you be creative. Draw your readers into the landscape of your book. Fill it with exciting and fascinating things. Make it a place that they want to return to, a place that they want to escape to, a place they would want to be lost.

4.) Plot - As mentioned above, a serial book should be like a battle in the context of the war. Take the time to think this through. Your war-plot should be compelling and exciting, and if you do the above three items, your readers will want to read through until the very ending.

1 comment:

Val said...

Keep up the good work.