Let’s Talk Bookish: Series vs Standalones

This week’s topic comes to us from M.T. Wilson @ Last Book on the Left) who asks—

Do you prefer standalones or series? When you read a standalone, do you wish there was more, or are you content that the story has finished? Are series sometimes too long? Do you feel like some genres work better in series while others work better in standalones? What are some standalones you wish had continued? Are there any series you think should have stopped at the first book?

I answered this basic question back in July as part of a Sunday Brunch, but the prompt added a few additional points that I hadn’t considered, so I’m going to paste that original post here (so you don’t have to go looking for it) and then I’ll continue with the new questions below.

I prefer long-form fiction in all iterations. I generally prefer TV series over movies, novels over short stories, and series over standalones.

For me, the real joy is in the learning, and the growing and changing of the characters. When I get to the end of a book that I really loved and there is NO MORE time with these characters, I feel…well, a little bereft.

For this reason, I don’t usually read the last book in a current series. I try to stay one book behind so that there is always the promise of more. I still haven’t read Kenzie and Gennaro #6, for example, because I can’t face saying goodbye.

Also, I think that having stories that play out over time makes the payoffs all the more rewarding. Getting the bad guy after 350 pages is way less satisfying than getting him after 4550 pages.

So, me, firmly team series.

Having said all that, I do read a fair number of standalones, and I rarely wish that they were series. Perfect example of this is a RomCom book—you get in, you get your HEA, you get out. Just like an interesting romantic relationship is difficult to sustain over 12 years of television, it’s also hard to sustain over 15 books, unless it is secondary to the plot. I mean, Spenser and Susan have been together for 40 years (and probably 40 books at this point), but it’s a mystery series, so their relationship, while lovely and abiding, is also not quite the point of the books.

Stand-alone thrillers are another genre that it’s difficult to do a sequel in…what are the chances that Mark Watney would get stranded on Mars AGAIN?

I also do think that some series are too long. I’ll refer you back to Spenser above. I think that it was obvious that Robert Parker was bored with Spenser by #28 in 2001. Parker continued to write them until his death in 2010, and they have continued for the last 11 years to be written by Ace Adkins. Now, I haven’t read the Adkins books; they might be grand. But I can’t help but think that the series was just about wrapped up 20 books ago.

As for books that make ideal series, obviously detective fiction is the best example. If you are a cop or a PI, there are always new cases, so as long as you don’t get bored writing about the characters, these series can easily go 20-30 books or more.

I also think that Urban Paranormal books and Fantasy books really lend themselves to long story arcs. I’ve read 10 or 15 10-15 book UP/Fantasy series, and wow, that’s some luxurious world building. Nothing like it.

As for series that should have stopped with one book, the one that sprang to mind was Divergent. Great, tight story that got more unfocused and bloated as it went along. Make the first book 100 pages longer, and resolve the whole story right there. Would have been brilliant.

So, what are your thoughts? What series did you love? Which ones were just too long?

The Let’s Talk Bookish meme is hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Series vs Standalones

  1. I found myself nodding along with so much of what you said. Romance really doesn’t lend itself to more than the one book – most of the duets/trilogies I’ve read could easily be cut down.

    A really well written fantasy needs a much larger number of pages to tell the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t disagree with anything you said.
    Though I might have an even harder time identifying a series that should have been a standalone book. Now series where the sequels that [i]were[/i] published detracted from it; okay I could come up with a few and Divergent’s not a bad pick there. But “the sequels weren’t good” is different from “any sequel would detract from it”.

    I’d say the vast majority of my fiction reading is series, even if they’re just a pair of books or a trilogy. (Though a lot of that is that series tend to be much more profitable for authors to write; so there’s a lot of them out there)


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