Character Journeys & Plotline Deja Vu

Character Journies & Plotline Deja-Vu

 In my opinion, one of the best feelings a reader experiences is when the next book is released in their favorite series.  I’ve struggled through those long waiting periods myself, running to my local bookstore to purchase that book on release day and then display that brand new, shiny, beautiful work of art on my shelf for me to see the next morning when I wake up.

I’ve also experienced the feeling of standing in a bookstore, staring at an entire shelf full of a series I have gotten a late start on, and wondering how I’ll ever manage to get through it all.  This is especially difficult when the rest of my TBR pile is so large that sitting down to scan through the list before going out to buy a new book is an occasion.

A question I’ve often asked myself is ‘when does a series become too long?’  I can count on two hands the amount of times I have actually finished a series of books, excluding trilogies.  It’s kind of sad, because many of these unfinished series have been ones that I have actually really enjoyed.  There are simply too many books that I want to read for me to have time to get through every single series I begin, especially when there are fifteen books within that one series.

I’ve given this a lot of thought – it’s one of those random topics that will pop into a book blogger’s head when they can’t sleep at night or are in the shower in the morning – and here are some of the red alerts that, in my opinion, mean a series should be coming to an end – or should have come to an end a long time ago!

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1:  The characters have finished their journey

 

Okay, so in the real world, our journeys are continuous – we are always learning and growing – but we like to read books where the characters actively change and mature.  A character can never be the same at the end of a novel as they were at the beginning.  They overcome weaknesses.  They gain new perspectives.  The insecure, quiet girl discovers strengths she never knew she possessed.  However, I believe an author needs to be able to identify when one of their characters has finished their journey and it is no longer emotionally engaging for a reader.  Has this character reached the place in which the author originally wanted them to be by the end of the series?  That’s a pretty good sign that the books should begin to wrap up.  Because let’s be honest – we love to read about broken, slightly messed up people, don’t we?  If the character has reached the end of their journey, there isn’t anywhere else to go that won’t seem forced, even if a new plotline is introduced.

 

2:  The plotline has become repetitive

 

This one is pretty self explanatory.  The popular girl has betrayed the nice girl one too many times.  Yet another kingdom – with the hardest to pronounce name so far – is invading.  Is this deja-vu?  Or is the author running out of plotlines?  If the stories become noticeably repetitive, we lose interest.

 

3:  The plotline strays too far from what it was originally meant to be

 

No.  You do NOT have a secret evil twin.  I thought this was supposed to be a contemporary…?

As soon as characters begin to reveal secrets that were not hinted at whatsoever in previous books, or too many new characters are introduced that had no importance earlier on in the series but are now turning our protagonist’s world upside down, I tend to step back and take a good look at what I’m reading and determine whether or not it’s really worth my time anymore.

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I love a good book series.  Just knowing that I don’t have to say goodbye to my favorite characters for a considerable amount of time is comforting.  It’s exciting to dive into the next book and either wonder what the next adventure will be, or already be on the edge of your seat as you continue from the cliff you were left on.  I do believe, though, that it is important for an author to recognize when a series is coming to an end and to respect their stories enough to bring it to a close.  There is nothing worse than an otherwise wonderful story being ruined by unnecessary continuations.

I find that dystopian and fantasy series can get away with being longer than contemporaries.  I believe this is because they are more plot driven than character driven, and series that are driven by plot can go on for longer because our attention is easier maintained, although even these can dry out after a while.

What do you think?  Have you ever stopped reading a series because it was going on for too long?  When, in your opinion, should a series come to an end?  I’d love to hear from you!

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