Monday, October 21, 2013

The best is yet to come

I love writing series. I love getting to know the characters for more than just one book.

But I also always struggle with how to end the first and second book of the series. The options for an open-ended ending are endless!

(Good grief. Lots of E-N-D in that sentence!)

Let's look at a few of them, shall we?

1. The Cliffhanger

Probably the most loved by writers and most hated by readers. As a writer, it can be fun because there aren't really any rules. You can end right in the middle of an action scene - the gun is cocked, the hero is ducking, there is NO WAY OUT - and you can just frivolously type the words "The End". The reader, on the other hand, will then hate you forever because they've invested a few days into this novel and now they don't know what happens next for the foreseeable future.

This method is frequently used in sitcoms on TV to hold the viewers' interest through the off season.

2. The Question

This is one where you look at the book series like a bunch of threads. The threads that make up the first book are tied up, but the big threads - character development, long range storylines - are still open. What will happen to the characters next? This typical leaves a more satisfied reader because they have answers to their original questions in the book (what is going to happen with this problem in her life? What will the answer be to that mystery he is working on?) but it still leaves enough curiosity that they want to get the next book and keep reading (will they end up with the person I hope they end up with?).

This particular method is a favorite of mystery writers everywhere.

3. The Unattached

I have read a lot of stories like this where it technically is a series but in name or author only. There's really nothing connecting the books other than the time period, the series name or maybe the family tree (book one is about the grandmother, book two is about the mother, book three is about the daughter, for example). This "series" is really just three separate stories and there are little - if any - connecting storylines through the books. The reader usually ends up treating these as individual stories.

I've seen this also where the books are about a sibling group and each book focuses on one of the siblings. The supporting characters are the same in all the books, so you have a sense of a continuing thread through the books, but you could still theoretically read them out of order and have a pretty good sense of what is going on.

So, series writers out there... what is your favorite method when it comes to writing series? And what is your favorite one to read??


  1. I definitely like the last two types best. My favorite thing in a "series" (referring to the 3rd type) is when a secondary character in one book becomes a main character in another book. Colleen Coble does this as well as Elizabeth Camden. They're my favorite historical authors. :)

  2. In my medieval series, I guess you could say I do number 2 - leaving off with the question of what happens to the characters. :)

  3. I'd say what I'm working on falls into the third category. The second book is about a sibling of the first book's main character. The third book will be about the daughter of that same main character. The ties are strong enough that they all touch the original story, and reading it first will make them stronger. But they should be okay standing alone as well, for each one has their own story in completion. (There's actually another story about the 1st MC's best friend floating out in maybe land...I think I'm addicted to my imaginary friends!)