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Avanti Centrae wonders, “Series or Stand Alone?”

Avanti Centrae is the author of the VanOps thriller series and stand-alone Cleopatra’s Vendetta. You can find out more about her on her website, www.avanticentrae.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the differences between books in a series and standalone novels. Maybe it’s because my current work in process hasn’t revealed itself yet as a series starter or a standalone thriller.

I think we’ve seen a proliferation of series in the last ten years because publishers like sure bets and readers enjoy delving deeper into their favorite characters. Yet, some stories stand better on their own.

Before I was an author, I was an avid reader, and still turn pages like an Olympic champ. Some of my all-time favorite books belong to series: Greg Hurwitz has the ninth Orphan X novel coming out in the spring, Robert Jordan had thirteen novels in The Wheel of Time, and I eagerly read every Cotton Malone novel that Steve Berry spins out.

But there are other series that I’ve soured on. It’s impolite to name names, so let’s just say that sometimes it seems the characters stop growing or the plots become predictable. 

With standalones, occasionally books or movies are so compelling that you want to spend more time with the characters, but the story came to a perfect end and would not be served by dragging it out into more books. Can you imagine if Thelma and Louise hadn’t taken the plunge? No way! It had to happen. And the film is gut-wrenchingly memorable as a result.

In some ways, writing a standalone seems to provide more opportunity for an emotional punch. My last novel, Cleopatra’s Vendetta, had the main protagonists, Tim and Angie Stryker, dealing with the loss of a child throughout. That’s a rich field to mine and I’ve had a difficult time coming up with a follow-on story with another powerful character arc. It may stay a standalone. On the other hand, the VanOps series has three books so far and I’m playing around with an outline for a fourth. The second story flowed from the first and the third also seemed a natural progression. The characters continue to evolve in each novel. Every book in the series can be read separately but reading all of the books provides a richer experience.

My current work in progress could be a series. If it is, I’ll probably not kill off one of the main characters because he’d make a great sidekick. But the character growth in this one story might be epic enough to keep it a standalone. I don’t know yet, but that’s the fun of writing…the discovery.

What do you love about a series? When do you quit reading one? Do you love a good standalone? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Avanti Centrae

You can find out more about her on her website, www.avanticentrae.com, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    As long as they’re well-written, I like both standalone and series. And I’ll read them whichever way I can get—a physical book, ebook, or audiobook.

  2. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    I like a good series and agree with you that the characters have to keep growing or it doesn’t feel authentic to me and I get bored. I also read many standalones. Good plots and good characters make or break the book for me. I like how easygoing you are about discovering whether or not your book will become a series. I think that’s a great trait to have.

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      Avanti Centrae

      Thanks Joy Ann. I get bored too when the character growth stops!

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    Jerold Last

    All of my books are standalones but all of them revisit (reuse) the same major characters. So I guess my answer would be “both”.

  4. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    There is room for both. However, as a reader, when I read a book with a character I love, I want more of the same.

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      Avanti Centrae

      It does seem to be about those lovable characters, doesn’t it? 🙂

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    Jacqueline Vick

    If I love the characters, I want more. But if a book is perfect as it is, I won’t shy away from a standalone. That doesn’t help.

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      Avanti Centrae

      I think it does, thanks for weighing in. As Sheila Lowe notes above, it’s about loving the characters, which I think is lovely byproduct of their growth and vulnerabilities.

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    Margaret Mizushima

    I do love reading both. When I connect with a character, I usually keep reading in a series. But a good standalone can be very satisfying to read too. I like that you plan to do what the ending of your work in progress dictates when you get there!

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    saralynrichard

    A rose by any other name smells as sweet. A well-written book makes the debate irrelevant.

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      Avanti Centrae

      Ah, so true. As is the converse…lipstick on a pig doesn’t hide the pig. 🙂

  8. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    I like bother but often feel a series character grows too predictable. I have only written standalone novels but the latest could have a sequel. I think standalones take longer to write because you have to delve into new characters.

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      Avanti Centrae

      Agree that standalones can be more work, but perhaps more fun to discover the characters and their quirks, interests, and motivations.

  9. Tracey S. Phillips
    Tracey S. Phillips

    Its a tough decision when you’re in the middle of writing a book, Avanti. Of course, I planned to continue Morgan Jewell’s adventures and my publisher said, “Nope.” But all those story ideas can easily be translated to other characters with different backgrounds. I hope my current WIP becomes a series, I have many ideas for the character to grow and evolve. Sometimes, it’s up to the publisher.

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      Avanti Centrae

      Yes, sometimes it is, and although publishers tend to love series, if the books don’t sell up to expectations, or if they think the market has changed, they’ll pull the plug. That can be disappointing for die-hard fans.

  10. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    I like reading and writing both. I like how you point out that it’s about what’s organic to the characters. If mine keep talking at me, then, yeah, it’ll be a series.

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      Avanti Centrae

      That’s neat that you’re one of those authors whose characters talk to them.

  11. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    I agree with Saralyn Richards. A well-written book is all that matters. My series set in northern Wisconsin uses the same village and environment in each book, but new characters take the lead in each book, while some past protagonists now become secondary or incidental characters or don’t show up at all. I really loved how that worked in the Mischief in Moonstone series and would write that way again. In the Fudge Shop Series, the protagonist is the same in each book, and I like the challenge of the protagonist moving onward to new situations, new friends, etc. So, I like reading and writing all kinds of novels if the story works.

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      Avanti Centrae

      Thanks for your thoughts, Christine! Your approach to mixing up the characters sounds interesting.

  12. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    One of the things that drives me crazy is when characters stop growing. Two of my favorite cozy series both turned stale around book 16 (which, granted, is a lot of books!) but the characters were suspended in time and maturity. One series that I love is Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness. All the characters mature and get better at what they’re doing and it is delightful. I hope I can be as genuine in my series.

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    Avanti Centrae

    16 is a LOT of books in a series. Love the title for Her Royal Spyness! Thanks for your thoughts.

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