Friday, October 16, 2009

How long can a series work?

Am about to give up on Dexter and House, both series I feel are increasingly repetitive, which is a real shame given how electrifying the first seasons of both shows were.

The problem being, how to you keep telling new and different stories about a character, without changing the essentials of what made that character fascinating to begin with. Does it put a limit on how long such a series should be continued?

I was addicted to the Anita Blake series until book eleven. To give credit to the author, she did change the character pretty in major ways, just not in ways I believed, or found interesting.
Same with the Stephanie Plum series.

Even series with different characters, but the same world can get repetitive. The world needs to evolve, the mysteries deepened, to keep everything interesting book after book. JR Ward has done a really good job of this, evolving her world with each book.

But for those of us writing a series, at what point do we say enough? Do we plan the end book before we write the first book, or evolve it as we write? I guess that depends on what kind of writers we are? And whether a publisher wants the series to continue.
It would take a stronger writer than me to turn down a contract because I believed the series should end..

6 comments:

Stephanie Doyle said...

Sinead - I'm with you on House. I only got involved again in this show because of where I "thought" they were going with Cutty and House.

All that angst and build up last season... gone.

I think the problem with series is that you have to be very careful with the overriding arc you plan to use from book to book.

With JR - it's the battle with the Lessers. Like the element or not it's very easy to keep the war moving forward. As with any war there are many battles.

With Stephanie Plum - I think it's the Joe vs. Ranger thing. And that was my problem with that series.

She would resolve things with Joe, then undo it in the next book. Then resolve it with Ranger, only to undo it and go back to Joe in the next. Very unsatisfying as a romance reader.

When I started with those books I thought this was going to be about her on going relationship with Joe. As I got further into it I didn't feel like there was a plan. It felt like. This book Joe, next book Ranger, next book Joe.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great question, Sinead. I dropped House last season, and then someone told me I HAD to start up again. So, I got caught up... and cool stuff happened, but I'm still m'eh. I most of them from this season stored on my pvr but so far, haven't felt like watching them. (America's Next Top Model and SYTYCD are higher priorities.)

I've only seen the premiere episode of Dexter this season, too... So I guess that says a lot.

I think you hit the nail on the head that you have to keep changing the world up. With House, all they do is change the minor characters.. and I guess that worked for a while, but ultimately isn't compelling and feels repetitive.

I wonder about TV shows like MASH or Cheers that kept going strong after so many seasons... but I think they really did evolve those shows... MASH turning from a silly sit-com to something much deeper (that was still often funny) and Cheers they kept introducing new strong charcters. Almost like Sam and the other characters who lasted the entire series were the minor characters, and they kept introducing new and exciting major characters... Or the minor characters were so strong, they became major.

I think, bottom line, you can't keep telling the same story over and over. I think that's where House and Dexter are falling down. Sure, Dexter has changed... but the story lines really haven't. They're just variations and will never live up to that AWESOME storyline in the first season. I mean, after you have him stalked by a serial killer who turns out to be his brother and tries to kill his adoptive sister... And he kills his girlfriend's ex husband... Yes, because he's not a good guy, but mostly because he's jealous... It's hard to top those storylines.
Although I am interested in Lithgow.. but not enough to have seen more the one episode, it appears.

Sinead M said...

House is very much one note this season and as much as my mad admiration for Hugh Laurie takes me far, it's not enough any more.
And same with Dexter, the storyline with John Lithgow isn't different enough to make this season that different, and the storylines aren't moving along fast enough.

Stephanie, I gave up on Plum after book seven, because zany antics only take a character so far, and while I loved Ranger, the flip flopping bothered me.

I do still love the brotherhood series, but she also has a huge cast of characters and a new romance each book.

Kimber Chin said...

I like it when characters grow and change over time (like real people do).

I do that with my own stories. Time elapses between books, things happen, and people evolve. The heroine from an earlier book is now a mother and is different (more mature, less guarded). The new hero is more confident socially (as he is more successful) but less optimistic about love (as he had his heart broken in a previous story).

THAT I find interesting. Freezing characters in time? Not so much.

Eileen said...

Series are tough. The one that's working really well for me right now is Suzanne Brockmann's, but looking at it as an author, it's crazy complicated! Characters are introduced and established and grown over multiple books while they're still secondary minor characters. Then suddenly they get their own books! And all of that stuff makes sense! It's awesome! It's such a huge web of characters and plots, though, I don't know how she does it.

I never did get the House thing. To me, every episode was the same from the very beginning and I spent most of the time waiting for Hugh Laurie to slip up and sound British.

Molly O'Keefe said...

The season opener of House was my series finale. He's fixed, let's put him to bed.

I think in some ways comedy has it easier than drama. Lots of things are funny. The dramatic road is well-worn.

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