When has a series run its course? How do we know that it’s over or that there needs to be more? What is it about a series that attracts readers?
First let’s talk about what makes up a series. To me, a series is an ongoing story that involves either a single character, multiple characters or a single storyline all through several volumes of books.
Trilogies, for example, would not be categorized as a series. They are a set.
Spin-offs, like Doctor Who and Torchwood, so secondary characters then get their own series. But, some spin-offs might be reimagined tales such as Pride and Prejudice vs. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which are normally just a reimagining of a single tale, or set of stories. Some people will count a spin-off as a branch of the original series, but many truly are their own series or just a one-off.
People love to be emotionally stimulated. They want to invest in a character or storyline and watch it develop. If authors are clever enough, they can keep that character interesting and keep that storyline fresh throughout many novels. Sherlock Holmes, for example, is a series that depends a great deal on characters to keep people interested. Between 1887 and 1927 Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 60 stories of our beloved Sherlock. We see a continued love of Sherlock and interest in his adventures through reimaginings or adaptations in movies and television series. Sherlock, staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller prove that some series can thrive far beyond the books, and beyond the life of the author.
Ian Fleming died in August of 1964. He wrote 12 novels and two short stories for his infamous James Bond 007 character. James Bond 007 novels- In Order. But, as you know, even after Fleming’s death, readers couldn’t get enough of the UK secret agent and several other authors have continued the series and we will see James yet again on the big screen this coming weekend in Spectre. There are now over 50 books in the series, many of which were turned into movies.
There are many more long-running series:.
The Boxcar Children 125 books
Choose Your Own Adventure 185 books
Perry Mason has 82 books
La Compagnie Des Glace by French novelist George-Jean Arnaud -98 books
Hardy Boys 190
Nancy Drew 175
While researching for this blog post I found an incredible list of prolific writers. There are writers all over the world who write series. The idea of series writing has been around for decades.
Christine Feehan with over 70 books total
Nora Roberts with over 200 books total
Philip M. Parker 200,000 books
Dame Barbara Cartland 722
German novelist Prentiss Ingraham 1000 novels
I think people love to see growth in a character. We want to believe that our story, our personal story, continues and we grow and our lives remain an on-going adventure. We choose our companion, be that James Bond or Eve Dallas and they travel our journey with us, perhaps with a bit more excitement and adventure than what we want for ourselves. We invest in them. We love them. We are fascinated with them. And we feel satisfied knowing that “the end” just means “until we meet again”.
What series do you love? Have you invested in a series and hope it never ends? What authors do you feel write wonderful series books? Are there some series that you think SHOULD come to an end, and if so, why?