Series vs One-Off

Writers of fiction often face the dilemma whether to write a series or  stick with writing one-off novels. Is one preferable to the other? Aside from the fact that each individual writer is unique and may have a personal preference, there are factors that are worthy of consideration in choosing between writing a series or sticking with separate stories for each successive book.

My first ever novel was a stand-alone action-adventure novel, The Quixotics. It was based of  story that I developed in law school. In fact, it was completed while I was still in law school. Why didn’t I develop it into a series? I was satisfied that I put the whole story into the one book. It’s true that I did end it in a fashion that left the door open for sequel(s), but I never really considered going there.

Every novel I’ve written since that first one has been a part of my Sleeping Dogs series. Why? Partly because I’m fascinated by the characters I’ve created. I enjoy taking them into new adventures because I know them so well. I’m inside their heads. I know how they think, how they react to situations. Hell, I just plain like those guys. And that’s one of the compelling reasons for writing a series. You don’t have to invent a new cast of characters in each book.

Another important consideration is that your readers become familiar with your characters too, and want to continue the investment they’ve made in them. There is a caveat, however. Don’t become so enamored with your creations that you stop telling a riveting tale. There’s a story I heard about a famous bestselling writer who became so infatuated with a character in a blockbuster book—actually a monster, but a fascinating one—that he wanted to keep writing about him, but tried to justify the horror of the character’s actions. Naturally, it was a huge flop. The readers just couldn’t buy it.

I think the best, most levelheaded statement I’ve heard from an author on this subject came from Lee Child. Everyone knows and is fascinated with Jack Reacher. But Lee told me he “doesn’t like Reacher.” He sized his creation up as “a bully, a criminal, a thug, and a killer.” He recognizes the character’s fallibility, but appreciates the hold Reacher has on the reading public.

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved