Series vs. Serial

I did it again.

I was engrossed in a book and was furious when it ended. Why? Not because I had become emotionally involved with the characters and their story,  which I had, but because it didn’t end.

Nope. It was a cliff hanger, a “you have to buy the next book to see what happened” kind of story.

All this does  is guarantee I will never buy another book from that author again.

Nor will I buy a book that is labeled “Book One of the XYZ Series.” Which is too bad, because they may well have a complete story within the book and the series is a continuance of the protagonists’ adventures.

But I can’t be certain. And that uncertainty stops me.

I know that serials are popular and have been for quite some time. But the serials were labeled plainly as serials and you knew you had to wait for the next magazine to come out to find out what happened. Way back when, we went to the movies every Thursday night, not just for the feature film, but to find out what happened in the serial — did the hero untie the heroine from the train tracks in time?

We knew the rules and were happy with them.

I’m writing a series. And like many series, it has an arc that reaches across the books and another more immediate arc within each book. The overreaching arc is that the characters have super-normal powers and in each subsequent book they learn more about using their powers and working together as a team.

But within each book, the story begins and ends with a problem and problem solved. Solved within that particular book. The ongoing premise is picked up in the next book and expanded.

The characters are challenged by their powers. One wants to become better at it; another tries to ignore it. And others try to hide theirs. When the villain in book three uses his power for evil,  the heroes learn to use their powers together as a team. Yeah, it’s been done before, but so has every other plot. In this case, the story takes place within an alternate history at the turn of the century. The 20th century.

I love writing this series. But I would never let the reader down by making them wait for the next book to come out. One reason is  they might lose interest by then. Books don’t come out every week or even every month.

For another, it isn’t fair.

There should be a way of labeling books to ensure the reader knows in advance that it is a serial novel, not a series.  Until then, I will avoid any book that looks as if it might be incomplete in and of itself.

Which is sad. Because it might be a darned good book.






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