I was watching a television series this week and got to thinking about book series. It occurred to me that television shows tend to last around 8-10 seasons. Granted, some left at the height of their following, claiming they wanted to either do something new or get out before things dropped. But, many end as a result of a loss of following. Book series can fall into the same category. Harry Potter was 7 books, although I think the following would have enjoyed JK Rowling to expand the series indefinitely. Lee Child’s series on Jack Reacher is 19 books long, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is 15 books long…and both are not finished yet. However, most books I see in the YA realm last for only 3: Hunger Games, Divergent, Mortal Instruments (which she has since continued). Sure, Twilight was 4, but I was ready for it to end by book 3.
Maybe because I am a writer and am interested in maintaining a following, I started to question what drives me to follow some series and drop others. I think it is the same desire that devotes me to a tv show series and to drop it. I’ve boiled my list down to three key aspects a series needs to keep the “spark” alive.
1. A change in story lines. I discussed this earlier in the week, but it still holds true. What I like about Dresden Files (which is the longest series I have read so far), is that he may have a common story line, but each book is different. Each one deals with different beings in different situations. I “learn” more about the characters and their world with every book I encounter. Nothing becomes stagnant. Everything is progressing in some way.
2. The introduction of new characters. Let’s face it. After so long, the same characters get a little boring. They won’t drastically change throughout the series, and neither would I really want them to. But, to keep the spark alive, I need something new. I need a new character I can fall in love with. This is tricky, though. I want to still see the old characters. One book, I can’t remember which, made me angry because it no longer followed a certain character. I was left wondering why I cared. The old characters still have to have a significant presence, but new blood is always good.
3. The world has to be rich with possibilities. I can’t read about a world too similar to mine. I find that boring because I am in mine too much as it is. I need a different world, one with mysteries and intrigue. This really has to be established in the first book to allow for longevity. Setting is important. Jack Reacher is a wanderer, so his setting and life is constantly changing, while Dresden’s world is so interesting I don’t mind staying a while.
What keeps you into a series? Likewise what causes you to drop one?