Sequels. Prequels. Series. They have a place and time (in my opinion). Some books rock as a series. Trilogies seem to be the big thing anymore. I won't knock that. Quite a few of my favorites stories played out into trilogies and then some. One of my WiPs will be a three part series if I ever get it out of my head and beyond my hard drive. But the majority of my WiPs are one part stories.
There was a time I thought there was something wrong with me as a writer for not having a stack of trilogies waiting to be typed up. Now I'm happy to have stories that begin and end in the span of one single book. Again, nothing against series of any size. But is the idea of a series being abused?
Like I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of books that happen to be series (some quite lengthy) on my favorites list. Then there are the ones that have to be series. Let's use Tarzan as an example (nod to Justin). How can that not be a series? Yes, you have the main story of Tarzan, who he is and what he became. So I guess you could read the first book and be satisfied. But there's an entire series (that I'm not even close to finishing yet) out there. I mean, it's Tarzan! How can his story be contained in one volume? Every day of his life could be turned into a book. Sure, sure, it could be accomplished. I'm making it complicated. Even still, it works as a series. That's my point. If the story stopped with book one, yes, you have the story of Tarzan. But since Burroughs was kind enough to continue the tale of Tarzan, why not take it all in?
The thing that irks me about series, mostly trilogies, is that they aren't always needed. They could be, but it isn't fluid. Several books I've picked up and loved continued to grow into long, drawn out series. I still read them. I wanted to know what happens next. I wanted the happily-ever-after. But I've since backed off. Just because the characters move on into another book doesn't mean their story continues. One author, whose books I bought and read on the days of their releases, is about to release yet another. But the story was done. It finished. Why is she releasing yet another book in the series? "Because they're paying me to." Her exact words. She agreed the story had reached its climax. All loose ends were tied up. It was over. But the publisher waved a check in front of her and she threw together an add on. (Disclaimer: I'm not saying it's easy to write another book. I'm sure she put tons of work into it. It isn't for the faint of heart) My problem is that I feel she sold out.
It isn't just her. There's several who have recently decided to restart finished stories. Now if the plots flow and the characters grow even more, then that's what a series is all about. But if a writer is writing a story for other reasons, how can I be expected to still feel for those characters. It leads to disappointment. If the author's heart isn't in it, the reader can tell.
Then you have the authors who thrive on their one-book stories. They have plenty to go around. Yes, you fall in love with a character in one book, and they stay in that one book, but you aren't sad to see their story come to a close. When the author releases their next piece of work, it's full of completely different characters and elements and still captures your heart and holds your attention. I like how one author put it. "You have a start of a story, what the character must overcome. You have the plot that grows along with the character. Then you have the climax. The climax brings a resolution with it. It brings a close to the story. That is the formula for a book."
So, again, there is nothing wrong with a trilogy or a series as long as the writer's heart is still in their work. Once they lose their love for the story, it ceases to exist. It will wither and crumble and leave the reader with a bad taste in their mouth. Don't force the story onward.
(note to self)
Only a few writers I've quit reading since they stretched out their stories for the sake of royalties. There are lots and lots of pressures in the writing world. There are also lots and lots of rules. But at the same time, there are no rules. Weird how that works. It can be daunting and exhausting, but it can also be a real joy. Keep your heart in your work and your readers will follow. Stay true to your story. It is your story after all.