Knowing When to Be Done With a Series

I heard an author say that her publisher wanted her to write a book “just like the last one [that was so successful] but a little different.”  Successful published writers are often expected to write in the same genre.  One reason, I think, is that if they switch to another genre, their fan base might not go with them.  Super writers, like David Farland, can write in more than one genre, but in David Farland’s case, he uses a different pen name.

My husband and I were talking about the fact that some writers’ later books don’t have the same appeal as their earlier books. So when a writer is successful and is writing stories with the same characters, when is enough enough?

In David Farland’s “kick” today, he answered the question:  “…when we first see a great movie, such as the Matrix, or when we read a great book, like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO, we go into the story with a lot of questions. A good writer will look for dozens of ways to keep you wondering. But eventually, the questions all have to get answered. Sure, you might be able to string the audience along for awhile, the way that the writers did with the television series ‘Lost,’ but eventually you have to answer the question ‘What’s going on?’ or the audience will walk out on you. Once you answer that question, you enter a dangerous part of your story. You see, very often, as an author we use suspense and mystery as our draws, the emotions that drag a reader into a story.
But once the reader knows what’s going on, we enter the second phase of a story, in which the reader is silently asking the question, ‘Do I care?’
Readers will only care about a story so long as the protagonist is likeable and is going through some conflicts that are interesting to the reader. Such questions as ‘Will the hero and heroine fall in love?’ ‘Will the cop catch the killer?’ ‘Will he ever overcome his drinking problem?’ and so on all need to be answered. Once they’re answered, the story is done—forever.”

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