Thursday, February 04, 2010

Some Thoughts On Series and Sequels

A week or so ago I found myself wanting to read a book but not just any book.  I wanted to read an epic or adventure story.  One that spans time, geography, etc.  And of course, one that features some kind of love story.

It was kind of a weird urge to suddenly have such a specific desire for a book, but I had just finished re-reading Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, and that book is kind of epic.  I freakin' love it, and wanted something similar.

The problem is, those kinds of books are hard to find in the romance section of a book store.  Historical romances these days tend to be pretty limited to the courtship stage, and they're usually all set in England, where the characters stay.  Besides, it's been a while since I read a genre romance that I really enjoyed.  So when I went down to my local Barnes & Nobles looking for something, I just walked around the Fiction & Literature section until something caught my eye.  I ended up with Sara Donati's In the Wilderness, which was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.  Yay!

Now, I'm still reading the book so I will review it later, but since starting it I've discovered that there are at least five other books in this "series."  And for some reason, that bothers me a little bit.

I'm not sure how to explain it exactly, but sometimes the knowledge that the story is going to go on and on is kind of . . . disappointing.  Sometimes it's better to introduce a reader to the characters and then end the story somewhere, after which the reader's imagination can take over.  The more an author tells us about them after the initial happily ever after, the more likely it is that the author will take the characters somewhere I don't want to go.

Does that make sense?  It's almost like a soap opera in some ways.  The best example I can think of comes from Days of Our Lives.  I used to watch that show a lot.  And for years one of the big stories was Austin and Carrie.  Austin and Carrie loved each other, but Carrie's sister Sami tricked Austin into bed and got pregnant.  After that, Carrie had to watch the man she loved with her sister, and Austin was stuck with a woman he didn't love.  This went on and on, and viewers like me just wanted Austin and Carrie to get together, until finally it was revealed that Austin's brother Lucas was the real father of Sami's baby.  Sami was a rotten liar, and Austin and Carrie could finally get together.  But it's a soap opera, so happily ever afters aren't allowed.  Conflict is interesting, so no long after Austin and Carrie's love story was finally realized, Carrie leaves Austin for Mike Horton.  WTF?

The same goes with books.  If an author is going to continue his/her characters' story into another book, then he/she is going to have to put some conflict in there in order to make it worth the read.  But then that just makes the previous books' happily-ever-after feel . . . ruined, to some extent.  See Meg Cabot, Queen of Babble in the Big CityI just feel like the more details you add to the sequel, the more you take away from the original reading experience.

This is one reason why I think many epilogues in romance novels are limited to showing how the hero and heroine have gotten married and had children.  There was a very legitimate commentary on Smart Bitches about how happily-ever-afters in romance novels are often conditional on having children (looked for the post but couldn't find it to link to), but in some ways, that's not such a bad way for an author to go.  It shows the reader that the characters' lives are evolving, but it is generic enough that it doesn't restrain imagination.

For me, it just comes down to less being more.  When I finish this story about Elizabeth and Nathaniel, I'd like to believe that they are able to live out their lives happily.  But from what I've read of the next book, it sounds like there's a whole lot more hardships for them to go through.  Ugh.

Finally, I will just add that I think this is in part what is being my disgust of Pride and Prejudice sequels.  I'd like to leave Darcy and Elizabeth's life together to my imagination, thanks.  I don't want anyone writing about how it turns out he's a vampire or whatever.  That just takes away from the original.  And, it's dumb.  (Don't even get me started on this shit.  If ever there was a need for perpetual moral rights in artistic works, THIS IS IT.)

1 comment:

Bee said...

Have you considered 'Outlander' by Diana Gabaldon? It's epic, romantic, historical. I know it's a whole huge series, but I've only read the first one because to me it seemed like the perfect well-contained story. And even though it's set in Scotland, the cover is thankfully mullet-free.