Should you write a seven book series? Why not? Jack Lewis did!
Two big reasons it worked for him: character and setting change.
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we have four Pevensies and classic Narnia. Next is The Horse and His Boy with Shasta who barely visits Narnia and only meets the four original kids as adults. Quite the change-up! Next Peter, Sue, Ed, and Lu with Prince Caspian (in the book named after him 😉 ) face a brand new enemy. Grab the youngest two, King Caspian, and Useless for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a completely new adventure and setting. Next in The Silver Chair we have Scrubb and Pole–underground! (No Pevensies in sight!) Skipping back to The Magician’s Nephew, Polly and Digory’s adventures happen in a total of three different worlds. And The Last Battle, well, there’s everyone everywhere!
Do you see how many times he switched characters (four Pevensies + so and so or no Pevensies at all) and setting (London, on a ship, or underground) while still keeping continuity? I say, if you can–do.
Three reasons it doesn’t always work:
- Lost. If books are so interconnected that I can’t read one without buying all fifty and reading them simultaneously–no go. I love Easter eggs; but if the books don’t standalone enough, that won’t work for me. That’s coming from the girl who watched the Avengers movie before any of the others and started with the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode. 😉
- Six cliffhangers. If the whole series is cliffhangers at the end of each book with next to no closure, I’ve basically been duped into having to buy the next book. I’m no loyal fan waiting to see what happens next–I’m a tortured reader who can’t stand an unfinished story. If it happens enough times, I’ll stop reading. (Who else didn’t quite like the end of Captain America: Civil War?)
- Tired characters, tired author, tired reader. The Boxcar Children on the moon. In Neverland. In the Marianas Trench. Yeah, just changing the setting alone doesn’t work. (I vote for adopting a fifth Alden with a sense of humor.) So authors puts characters through the wringer. Sixty near break-ups with the man they will finally marry in book ten (or season ten, argh); loss of three legs; and betrayal by their oldest friend who accidentally did their hair in an evil style one morning. Well, Elsie Dinsmore, I say. (I stopped at book two.) Personally, I believe once it has to be melodramatic, repetitive, or unrealistic, it’s time to say goodbye to those characters. They can always be side characters in another series. 😉
So, my opinion as an author and reader is plan well. Is this going to be a standalone, a trilogy, or maybe even an awesome seven?
Trilogies are awesome too! Besides being a beautifully spelled word, it goes with the three act structure idea perfectly and is mentally the ideal length for longer than a standalone.
To be honest, I am wary after book three. The fate of the series hangs in the balance. Will it be original without drama? Do I have to go through the near death of my favorite character again? I’ve met one perfect four book series (Hello, Wingfeathers!), and a five book series that would have been better as four (The Viking Quest series). Oftentimes, it’s not the last book that feels extra, but a middle “filler” one that does. Nothing a good bit of planning wouldn’t fix. 😉
Once in a while though, there are series like The Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie that simply MUST be longer. Or we would protest. 😉
That’s the whole point. What is best for the reader? What is best for the story? And what is best for the poor characters who have died eighty times (I’m looking at you, Moffat)? There’s a way to do it right, and a way that kills the series.
What do you think? What is one series you think could have been shorter (or longer)?