In the comments thread for Will the Series be Unbroken, Brad & Imani‘s insights made me realize that I was thinking of series in a very limited way. I was only considering a series as having the following criteria:
- Set in the same world
- Recurring characters
- A forward-moving story that aims for cohesiveness across multiple books
- There is a discrete end in sight, whether or not the author ever reaches it (coughrobertjordan)
In other words, the common model in the fantasy/sci fi world.
But I was not at all thinking about series that only feature the first two criteria: say, for example, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries. I must admit that I am not a big fan of detective fiction; though I adore Ruth Rendell, I don’t gravitate to her Inspector Wexford mysteries. Perhaps it’s that I’m a closure-junkie (my screenwriter side rearing its ugly head) but I’ve never really seen the appeal of a recurring character who doesn’t really develop over time. I get the feeling when reading these kinds of books that I’m just getting anecdotes, not story, if that makes sense.
Another variation is what you find in YA, chick lit, or romance–what I call “soap opera” books. These books satisfy the first three criteria, but not the fourth, because they’re intended to be neverending. I understand the appeal, though in this case you’re just getting the illusion of character development and story and not the real thing. The “candy” appellation is most appropriate.
It’s very rare to see trilogies or series in non-genre fiction. I think of Kristin Lavransdatter and Robertson Davies’ Deptford trilogy, but that’s all I’ve got off the top of my head. Anyone have any other examples?
Am posting in advance of this afternoon’s work read. Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about War and Peace, which I began a few nights ago. I’m forty pages into it and am utterly besotted. Tolstoy roolz!