Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stand alone...leads to a series...or

by Jude Mason

Another topic that's got me thinking and wondering how in heck I can explain myself. So many things to think about with this one.

All righty, here goes!

I didn't actually read a lot of serial type stories or books when I was younger. Nancy Drew didn't do it for me. The Hardy Boys were more my style, but I honestly didn't go for them a lot either. Besides that, I had eye sight issues. By the time I really got into reading, I was in my mid-teens and ready for the naughty stuff.

I was really into science fiction and things like John Carter of Mars books. The Gor series was the first real D/s I'd seen and I loved them, although I often rooted for the females to rebel and enslave those nasty men. I think that's when I realized I was a tad different from the girls I knew.

Back to series or stand alone books. (Notice how easily distracted I am. Ugh!)

When I really got into writing for myself, the stories I created where sort of a series. They all happened to a single person, but the stories weren't connected in any other way. I adored writing about the same woman. I knew here like I knew myself and if I'd allowed anyone else to read the stories, I'm sure they'd have thought I was nuts. LOL But, that aspect of serial storytelling is incredibly attractive. You get to delve into every aspect of a character's life and show it all to the world. You've got time to dig into bits you might not have in one book or a short story. Each new story, you can just dive in. There's no need to describe the setting or what the character looks like, or where they live. You've already done that. A quick skim and you're good to go.

Now, a stand alone has its own special advantages. The first for me is, I don't have to remember all that's come before. You might laugh, but when you get to be my age and have written as many stories as I have, it's an issue.

The chance to create new scenarios, new characters, new games and such is also very big with me. I love the challenge of putting it all together. Characters have to meet, they have to have a place, a job, a style, they're like my children. I have to make sure they have everything they need to live and breathe and tell their stories. I also get to chose their sexuality, or share it with others if the characters have already formed in my thoughts.

See that's what happens, sometimes. I'll be doing something and out of the blue, BAM, a story will strike. Often it's the outline, or part of an outline and I have free reign to decide the rest. I may have only a genre and one character, a place maybe and that's it. Other times, I'll get like a flash and it's all there. The entire story, or even the basics for a series. Each time is different and each time I wonder, where in hell did that come from? But, I'm always glad it arrived.

Of course, there are always the characters who began as secondary who cry out for their own story to be told. Sammy was one of those. He was born in An Acquired Taste, wound up in Yes, Ma'am and then in his own story, Sam the Man, in the anthology, Phaze Fantasies VI. I love it when a character is that strong.

So, series or stand alone, are in some ways the same, they both need to be filled out, the beginning middle and ending have to be complete. It's just a matter of how much 'story' there is. How much time do I have to spend on it? Am I answering a call or do I have freedom to work as I please? Am I writing with my partner, Jamie, on some sexy new addition to our Kindred Spirits Series?

My preference? At this instant, stand alone, because that's what I'm working on. But, ask me in a few days, or even tomorrow, and the answer may be completely different.

Guess that really didn't tell you which I prefered. I'd love to know what you think, what are your preferences?


  1. I'm rather torn about series. I've just plowed through a number of Sookie Stackhouse novels (because I've been doing a survey of popular vampire fiction) and got so tired having things re-capped, and reflected upon, I wanted to spit. I gather they're easy on writers, because you can spend half the book reflecting on the last one. I've been loathe to delve into the Twilight series because the underlying prudery of it kind of squicks me out.

    On the other hand, I really do like parallel stories (typically alternative fiction), or stories that take place in the same universe, like Alistair Reynolds, China Mieville, or Steven Erikson.

    I've been playing around with this idea recently (using vampires because they're so long-lived) to jump around in history in stories that link characters together by blood relationships.

    It scares me, because I don't really know where I'm going. And I'm sort of disgusted with myself for writing vampire anything. But I have to blame that on D.L. King, because it was her damn CFS that prompted me to re-write one I wrote a while ago and sent me down this nasty track. I'm just trying REALLY hard not to write like anyone else and hoping that will mitigate my literary degradation. ;-P

  2. Hi Jude,

    I think it's perfectly fine to take each story on its own merit and decide if its a single or series material. Sometimes it happens naturally.

    You do a great job, whichever way you go.



  3. I like both. The real trick with a serial or series is to make sure you don't go stale...or contradict yourself. As long as it's new and interesting, keep going. I'll be with you to the end.


  4. I love either, but currently, I lean towards series books. I LOVE getting to know the characters and being able to keep up with their lives. I hate wondering at the end of a book what happened to them! I want to know! I HAVE to know! Tell me PLEASE!!! LOL!

  5. I am drawn to series particularly if the protagonist is strong and easy to relate to. In mystery it's easy to fall into a series - Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, etc. There's enough going on in their personal lives that compels you to keep reading.

    As for writing, it can be a challenge to maintain a series. I have four full-lengths in Dareville now, with several shorts. The more I write, the more characters I create, and the more I need to keep track of. Ultimately, though, I feel there is a payoff because if a reader likes one they may read more.

  6. Jude I like it that you go back and forth on the issue of series vs stand alone. I have a favorite author who waited years and wrote many books before revisiting the same world. Both were stand alone, but I loved the fact that characters I loved were back in my conscious mind again. They had been in my subconscious ever since I read the original.


  7. Hey, Jude!

    It's a very nice place you have here. Hi, girls. *(waves)*

    I have to say I love reading both stand alones and a series. It is particularly nice to see a favourite character have their own series. You really feel like you get to know them, inside and out. :D

    Have fun!

  8. Jude,

    I'm like you. I can go back and forth on series vs. stand alones. But I do think individual books in a series do need to be able to stand on their own. I've seen it done well a number of times. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books and Anne McCaffrey Dragon Riders of Pern series are two that come to mind. Kat Lively mentioned mysteries as being easy to do as a series. Some are quite well done, series-wise, but others don't work as well. How many Cat Who mysteries could Lillian Braun write before she started repeating herself? Lindsey Davis, on the other hand, always had something new to add to the world of Marcus Didius Falco.

    It's a toss up, both for readers and writers, I think.

  9. I see you were an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. Me too. I haven;t read many series since that time. As far as writing, I'm a short story writer and reader, partly because I like the attention span for a novel. I do like reading short stories about the same characters.


  10. I like both stand alone and series. The one drawback with series is keeping up with them but I do like how the characters can be developed and you get to know them.

  11. RG,

    You made me chuckle, lady. Why would you be disgusted with yourself for writing vampires. They're amazing creatures...and you get to do all kinds of very cool stuff with them. I mean, just think: get yourself a nice vampire lover and slip his face between the lovely fems thighs. He doesn't need to breathe! I mean think about it!

    Okay, mind out of gutter for a sec. LOL Thanks for commenting here. It seems we're all as confused and befuddled by this one. Nice to have company!


  12. Jamie,

    HUGS! You always make me feel like I know what I'm talking about. I think it's a mom thing. LOL I know you write series's well. I've read a couple of yours and you have the memory for it and the ability to carry the story along so well. I hate you. Sigh. Not really, but you do amaze me on occasion.


  13. Brenna,

    You are so right. A series is easy enough to plan on doing, and to begin, but to keep the story going well takes a special talent. Each book has to grab and hang on.

    Thanks so much for stopping by.


  14. Oh, hello, Madam Queen. (gulp, royalty guys!)

    So, you're one of those people who just can't stand an unsolved mystery huh? I'm laughing like a fool here. Patience be damned, gimme the ending... LOL

    Thanks so much for stopping by.


  15. Kat,

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

    It's really all about the readers isn't it? It's fantastic when a reader asks for more of a particular story or character for sure. Difficult if you hadn't planned on it and nothing comes into your head. An exciting premise definitely makes it easier.


  16. Ray,

    Hey mister! It's fantastic when a character speaks to you and tells you how the story goes on. It's also very special when a writer knows they have a fan or two who are waiting to find out what happens next.

    Thanks so much for coming by.


  17. Hey Sassy!

    I totally agree with you. Both is best. Greedy here. LOL Having a favorite character come back is an incredible feeling when you know they have something to tell you. I've got a couple who have stories they want telling. Frustrated lil beasties. I'll get to them.

    Thanks for stopping in!


  18. Hi Helen,

    Oh, Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern. I loved those books. LOL I remember wanting to be a dragon rider so bad. Talk about escapism. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series was another one I really loved. They were well written, in my opinion, and worth reading several times.

    It really does take a special talent to do these well. I've thought of attempting a science fiction/erotica series, but don't know if they'd sell. Still might happen.

    Thanks for stopping by


  19. Garce,

    I thought I was a short story writer until I wrote a novel. My problem is I have to take copious notes so I don't forget who has what color eyes and such. LOL I do love the freedom to go into as much detail as I want, or the story needs, when I'm writing something of any length.

    Yes, I was a huge Burroughs fan. I thought everyone was. LOL

    Thanks for commenting today.


  20. She,

    I really agree with you. There is a place for both series's and stand alone books. Sometimes I just want a quick read too, and dive in for a short story or novella. Variety really is the spice of life. Getting to know the characters through a series is amazing, but then there are such amazing stand alones too. Talk about nuts... LOL

    Thanks for coming by today.


  21. I think that Helen has summed up the situation - series are great if and only if each book can also stand on its own. It should be possible to jump into the middle of a series and not feel lost or cheated. For a really well-written series, jumping into a book in the middle should inspire you to go back and read the beginning.

    Jude, I do hope that either you or Jamie will talk about how you work together as a team, maybe during the "Creative Process" topic in a few weeks.


  22. Hi Jude,

    Much as I had enjoyed series books as a kid, I never intended to write one. But once I started the Trailer Park Nights books, the story just wouldn't stop! Those characters just kept coming back and screaming in my head until their next story was done. Of course, if I had as much fun as most of them do, I'd want to continue the story too. Stand alones are fine, but there is SO much work in developing totally new characters with all new quirks and strengths.


    Randall Lang

  23. Hey Lisabet,

    Thanks for the prompt - I'd really LOVE to understand the co-writing process better. I've never believed I could do it, but I would love to try. Knowing how it works for someone else would be really, really useful.

  24. Hi Jude,

    I think you're right that each project has to decide for itself what it should be when it grows up. If a secondary character demands a plot, some times the only way to shut them up is to let them tell their story in another book :)

    Kim Dare


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