Posted on February 8, 2013 - by Kav
Something that bothers me (a lot) as a reader is a book without an ending. I like my story all wrapped up with a neat little bow. I need resolution and I think most readers do. That’s why I detest books that end in the middle. I have come across a few over the years and I always feel like the author and publisher are holding me hostage. Toying with my reader’s sensibilities and, in some cases, taking advantage of my sensitive reader’s heart. These are always part of a series and I guess the cliffhanger is supposed to keep readers salivating for more. It has the exact opposite effect on me.
Don’t get me wrong — I love series. Thrill at the opportunity to return to a beloved setting and characters, but I still expect to find some resolution for the main characters even if a few story threads are left dangling.
Using Setting As A Common Thread in a Series:
Our own Lorna Seilstad’s Lake Manawa series is a perfect example. Each of her three books. takes place at the same resort and while there are some character crossovers, each story revolves fully around a particular hero and heroine. When a reader comes to the end of one of these books she’s destined to heave a satisfied sigh of sheer pleasure because the story is complete, the hero and heroine are right where she wants them to be. But the reader is also left wondering who will play a role in the next book and eagerly anticipates its release. That’s series perfection.
It takes a special talent to weave one character’s story through several books and leave readers satisfied at the end of each story. Cindy Woodsmall immediately leaps to mind as an author who possesses such a talent. She tells Hannah Lapp’s story in her Sisters of the Quilt series. It takes all three books to reach a satisfactory final conclusion but each individual story has a sense of complication even though loose threads dangle enticingly out of reach.
Using Plot As A Common Thread in a Series:
This is a tricky one and it isn’t often done to my finicky reader’s standards. I read one a few years ago that ended on such a ridiculous cliffhanger that I felt insulted. (Yes, I take my reading seriously.) The Secrets of Crittenden County by Shelley Shepard Gray is a perfect example of a series with a continuous plot that works. The series explores a murder mystery and while each book brings us closer to the real killer, we don’t find out whodunnit until the end of the last book. But Missing, The Search and Found are complete stories in and of themselves told from the perspective of distinct hero and heroine. And one of the neatest techniques Gray used as an anchor in each book was replaying the same scene but from different character’s perspectives. Each time we read it, we gained more of an overall understanding of the dynamics at work in this compelling read. And the books were published within three months of each other. Now that’s the way to show your readers a little respect.
So that’s my two cents worth on series writing. What’s your opinion?