So why don’t I do more series?

Reading The Devil You Know got me thinking about series as well as origins. Specifically why I like series, why I don’t, and why I don’t try writing more of them myself.
As to why I like series——frankly, I don’t have a clue. Although I’ve discussed what turns me off to a series here, I’m not sure what draws me to a series is any different from what draws me to a stand-alone: Good characters, interesting premise, good plots, good writing, etc.
I’ve enjoyed series such as the old Perry Mason legal thrillers, where there’s no character development from book to book and they’re all interchangeable (but solidly entertaining). I’ve enjoyed Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, which adds new characters, kills old ones and shows a fair amount of change in the series to date.
I’ve also disliked series that stayed the same (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books wore out their welcome several books ago) and some that changed: When Sujata Massey’s series detective, Rei Shimura, moved from Japan to Washington, she lost a distinctive setting and became a generic amateur detective.
For my own writing, I think there’s several reasons No Good Deed Goes Unpunished was my first sequel other than the Applied Science series (speaking of which, story #8 is now up on the site——the Story Behind the Story will follow tomorrow).
Quite simply, I don’t want to do the same thing every time. Not because I feel I’m superior to it (as a lifetime comics fan——not to mention Perry Mason——I obviously don’t look down on series that follow a formula over and over), but it just doesn’t appeal to me. And I have a hard time imagining that anyone else would like it either (just because Erle Stanley Gardner and Gardner Fox can pull it off doesn’t mean I can).
When Big Pulp proposed an Applied Science series, I knew it had to be something other than just monster-of-the-month or rogue-scientist-of-the-month over and over. Admittedly, there are monsters, but I’ve tried to vary the structure: Fire From Space is (I hope) kind of noirish. Blood and Steel is heavy on the romance. Claws That Catch is a monster movie from the viewpoint of the people on the ground, struggling to stay alive.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished felt very different (at least from my perspective) from my first story of the Wandering Jew, Where Angels Fear to Lunch. He’s more bitter, less likeable, and the fantasy level is more subdued. It’s also very much a turning point in his life, and that makes it work for me too. It’s much more satisfying to do a story that has some sort of emotional significance than one that’s just one random adventure (even though I’ve enjoyed reading plenty of them).
On the other hand, I have written a couple of stories (unpublished at this point) that I did write with a sequel in mind. But in those cases, I saw them as part of one long, multi-part story——the kind of series that heads somewhere, gets there and then ends when the arc is wrapped up. That, too, I can get into.
One other problem of series, is that I can rewrite a standalone novel or short indefinitely until I finally sell it. With a series, once #1 comes out, it to some extent locks things in place; if I discover the initial story hogties me for later developments, it’s too late to take them back. I’ve often wondered if the people who write seven or eight-book series (or more) gamble on plotting everything out before they finish the first.
Or if they sometimes discover on book five that they really, really screwed up in book two.

4 Comments

Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Reading, Short Stories, Writing

4 responses to “So why don’t I do more series?

  1. Pingback: First Lord’s Fury « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Do we need origins? « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Story Behind the Story: Mayhem ex Machina « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Game-changers | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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