I love a good series, and it's hard to give up on a pair of characters or a world when I've cared about it so much. When I find out an author is going to expand their story into a series, I jump right on the bandwagon and wish list everything. If I love your stories, there is the potential for me to become a fan for life. I’ll follow you through the good and bad times. I’ll defend your story choices. But I have strong expectations when I read series. I am committing to you for the long haul and I expect the same commitment from you. You don’t have to propose marriage, but I expect monogamy. I want book 26 to be just as interesting and exciting as the first in the series.
If you start to falter in our relationship, I suddenly find myself looking at other authors. While there may be fifty ways to leave your lover, there are only five reasons that will make me hand you back your class ring and tell you to hit the road...we are over.
1. Lack of focus
As I stated above, I have expectations in a series and when they aren’t met, I get angry and flounce away. Most series have a long-running arc. That's the appeal. Though there may be minor conflicts that are resolved at the end of each book, the end game needs to stay strong throughout the series. There can be only one. When the series begins to overflow with multiple characters, 3-4 additional arcs, and a few spin-offs, then this relationship has become too complicated and it’s time to leave.
2. Hopeless characters
Conflicts are a fact of life and almost every book we read has a damaged hero and/or heroine that has issues concerning their image, childhood, past deeds, ect...and while I have no problems with damaged characters, I do have a problem when they don’t grow beyond or in spite of their issues. Lately, some of my go to series books contain characters who can’t seem to get beyond their issues. They are stagnating in their lives; subtly blaming everyone else for their problems. And the characters who enable them are no better. We are in the 4th or 5th installment and the character is STILL whining, moaning, bitching, and finger-pointing about life being so unfair and no one knows what they are going through. Boo-hoo. Who really wants to read a continuous storyline—even if it's fiction—about someone who is unable to move past a certain point in their life?
3. The continuous beatdown
I’m all for angsty character driven series where our protagonists have to work hard for their relationships to work. It’s only when the characters you have grown to love never catch a break you begin to wonder exactly what the point is. I don’t want to read a series where in each installment the protagonists are ripped apart in some heartbreaking fashion. Then you wait a year to see if this is finally the book where they will be allowed some time in the sun only to discover they are once again denied happiness. When does it end? Of course, this leads me to the dreaded cliffhanger.
4. Extreme cliffhangers
Like extreme skiing, only not as fun.
This popular plot device, especially in NA and YA, has left this reader ready to throw in the towel. The extreme cliffhanger, not to be confused with the regular cliffhanger, is where it ends right in the middle of a climatic moment. It’s the kind that has you convinced your e-reader stole a page or two because the ending almost makes no sense. Encountering one is akin to being offered a never-ending chocolate bar, only to have it snatched from your lips at the last moment. When you read a story, you invest a portion of your life to it, with the expectation of a payout at the end. A regular cliffhanger casually denies you the full payout. An extreme cliffhanger slaps you in the face, calls you a sucker and leaves you hanging. There is also the fear that if the series isn’t continued, you may never know what happened or find yourself with a less than adequate ending.
5. The switcheroo
I enjoy diversity as much as the next person but when a character or storyline alters without a reasonable explanation, then it’s time to go. Usually literary trends facilitate this jump—authors and/or publishers determine that by adding in this miracle key element, they will open their books to a new fan base. When I’ve invested time and energy into a characters or storyline, I expect it to remain consistent. I want the series to get new fans, hence the reason I pimp my favorite series, but there are certain things that are just not cool. I don’t want a previously shy character to suddenly start sleeping with multiple people. I don’t want a my soulmates to add a third character to up the steam factor. I don’t think it’s reasonable for a vampire story to add an alien race. Spice up the series but don’t make it so confusing that your oldest fans have no idea what is going on anymore.
So what makes you want to break up with a series?