The End . . . ?

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Blogging in Black ( about readers' pet peeves. More than one person complained about storylines that leave the reader hanging because the author intends to do a sequel.

Anyone familiar with my blog knows that I'm not a big fan of continuing stories, either as a reader or as a writer. I personally like the satisfaction of knowing that the story is over when I read the last page. But there is no denying that these are very big with readers, just as our grandmothers and great-grandmothers listened to soap operas on the radio sixty and seventy years ago. The reason sequels have become so popular in recent years is that readers clamor for more about the characters. It has almost become expected.

I am working on a sequel to my mainstream debut, The People Next Door, simply because of overwhelming reader requests. People have also asked for a sequel to last year's Nothing But Trouble. I consider it a compliment that I have not received requests for a continuation of If These Walls Could Talk. I tried very hard to make it a complete story, making it easy for readers to imagine what happens to some characters while having to guess about what happens to others.

Just because I was convinced to write a sequel due to popular demand doesn't mean I'll just slap a story together. It won't be written until I feel I have a good story that will entertain readers.

I do believe that series can be done well, without ticking off readers, if the writer ties up the loose ends and begins the sequel with a new set of problems or moves secondary characters into the spotlight with a brief glimpse of the previous main characters (which is done very frequently in romance with great success.) If a writer does choose to end with unanswered questions, is it really fair to ask their readers to wait six or eight months, or even more, to find out what happens?

What's your feeling on sequels? Do you like them? Do you feel the characters should experience personal growth, or do you enjoy reading about the same behavior through three or four books? Would you stick with a continuing story indefinitely, or do you feel it should end after two or three books? Five? Ten?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Patricia W. said...

The best sequels imho are ones in which a secondary characer gets their own story (or is that a series?) I like the stories I read to standalone although I very much enjoy series. Sometimes I'll come upon a book in the middle and love it so much that I find the preceding ones. But I wouldn't stick with a series indefinitely. I really think more than 3-5 books is pushing it a bit (with the exception of the Left Behind and Harry Potter series).

bettye griffin said...

Thanks for pointing out that sequels and series aren't necessarily the same thing(although I think they are closely related; I'd have to spend a little time on the correct definitions, so anyone who knows off the top of their head, please post!)

It's not uncommon for readers to start a series midway through and go back and read the earlier books. Kimani Press is reissuing a lot of popular series books.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

A sequel usually has the same characters. We rarely find these in romance because readers would get ticked off if you end with happily ever after and then take the character through more stuff in another book. Sequels are like the Harry Potter books, L. A. Banks's Vampire Huntress Legends. We follow the same characters book after book. Think of movies like Pirates of the Caribbean , Bridget Jones's Diary Oceans Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen and the like. Same characters, different action, plot, story etc...

Now a series can have the same characters, but the kind we see in romance are usually what we would call "spin-offs" in TV Land. That's when characters from one book gets their own time to shine in a book of their own. They are connected but they usually stand alone and sometimes the leads from the previous books make an appearance in the new book. Think of how the characters on The Jeffersons got their start on All In the Family . In romance we see this a lot.

That was a long way of describing them, I suck at defining things... :-)


bettye griffin said...

Au contraire, Gwyneth, you did an excellent job of clarifying the difference. Thanks so much!


Donna D said...

(Sorry if this is a double post.)

I've only read two book series recently: "Left Behind" and "Yada Yada Prayer Group."

With LB, I read the first 5 in rapid succession and then had to wait anywhere from 6-18 months for the following 7 books. They ended the series at a logical point. But because money was an issue (meaning the publisher wanted more I'm sure) they decided to push out 3 prequels and a sequel to the end. I haven't read them because I'm not sure I want to invest the time or money into the series again. If I had to do it again, I'd have waited until ALL of the books were out and started from the prequels through the final sequel.

With Yada Yada, the author chose to end the series at 7 books. I'll really miss the characters and the writing, but at least I didn't have to wait too long to get each of the stories.

I think sequels are great if they add to the story or tell a different story with the same characters. If I've invested time with characters I love, I want to know how things turned out after "The End" - sort of the way I feel about fanfiction based on TV shows.

bettye griffin said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Donna!