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.