Authorguy's Blog

When do you stop?

Posted on: September 1, 2010


Many of us have read series that started out great and lose us along the way.  I was just reminded yesterday of the Dragonriders of Pern series, which I stopped reading at Dragondawn.  To my mind, the series up to that point was a fantasy series, despite the occasional bit of tech that showed up.  Mostly those bits of tech stayed in the background of the main series, while the Harper Hall trilogy and filler books like Moreta and Nerilka were blessedly free of them.  In Dragondawn they got shoved down my throat and I stopped reading, but I’m wondering why.

I read the Harry Potter series up to book 4.  I stopped reading Goodkind in book 2.  I gave up on Anita Blake after Obsidian Butterfly.  I loved the early Codex Alera books, and the early Dresden books as well.

Why?

Well, in Goodkind’s case the answer is simple.  I hated the books.  Characters who come back after they’re dead?  Characters who mutate into supergods entirely by internal development?  Pain as a teaching tool?  Killing as an expression of Love?  No thank you.  Finding out he was an adherent of Ayn Rand was just icing on the…well, not cake.  Cow-patty, maybe.

Potter and Blake are different.  Both of them changed the tone of the books as the series progressed, and I didn’t like the change.  Harry got dark, with the murder of Cedric, and Anita just had too much sex.  I tried to read the fifth Potter but the quality of the writing had declined as well.  I understand she was able to prevent any editing of the book and it showed, but really I lost interest because of the war.

The Butcher books just got too overly plot-heavy.  When the focus was on Tavi and Harry, fighting the good fight in spite of all the obstacles they were good and fun.  The introduction of Imperial politics just turns me off.  I haven’t gotten to that point with the Vlad Taltos series by Brust, but that’s getting a bit tangled too.

As for the Pern books, I’m not sure.  I don’t mind technology in a fantasy novel, Dave Duncan’s Seventh Sword series is one of my favorites.  I don’t mind magic in the guise of technology, as Heinlein did so often.  It was much more of a SF novel than the rest of the series, and the characters just didn’t grab me somehow.   Maybe it was just more plot-heavy, like the Butcher books.  That can be a curse of prequels, trying to fill in the holes of what has already been presented as history, presenting characters as actors on a predestined stage rather than as people.  Maybe it just went on so long I grew away from it, which argues for series coming out over a short time.

What stops you?

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9 Responses to "When do you stop?"

I guess what stops me is when a series seemingly gets totally off track and moves away from what it used to be, what drew me in to begin with.

Then, there’s the aspect of a series never ending, and it seems to go on forever with the ending always just out of reach regarding the current installment.

After a while, it just seems like the creators are TRYING to keep it going as opposed to the story naturally HAVING to go on logically.

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Yes, I missed that one. One of my favorite series was the Well of Souls by Jack Chalker, but I never read the later books. The original was just too perfect and I didn’t want to spoil it. Thanks for pointing that out.

This is from my WIP, Tales of Uncle:
*********
Her face fell into more somber lines. “It requires no great wit to see that stories have natural end points. Wisdom is needed to recognize them, and not try to continue the story beyond their bounds, or draw it up short.”
“We speak of lives, not of stories.”
“They are the same. Life without hope is a terrible thing.”
*********

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“I generally stop when I get bored with the story – sometimes after the 2nd, 5th, 11th book, you realize the story is still the same, the characters are in the same situation (different people/location) as in the first book, or you just get tired of the characters not growing. A really good series will let the characters grow and mature, or learn from past experiences.
One series I still enjoy: Liad stories by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
One series I keep buying, but read in fits & spurts: Valdemar stories by Mercedes Lackey
Both of these have very strong story lines, characters that grow with the story, and enough surprises around periodic corners to keep my interest. Also, the authors have a real talent at getting me to suspend disbelief. I also read non-series book by these authors because I really enjoy their writing. “

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A lack of continuity, or perhaps simply because the book/story itself has slowed to a crawl? A large story with many characters can do that, where the book is divided into sections to give all the characters some ‘screen time’ and the reader is forced to wade through pages of gunk he’s not interested in or has to reset the clock in his head. That was one of the things I hated when reading LOTR. When I was writing A Warrior Made I did something like that, but I kept the various strands of the story small, and interconnected.

The lack of continuity would also bother me. The author doesn’t want to mess with his formula, perhaps. Most of the books I read avoid this, although TV is loaded with it. I’m watching an old sitcom and not liking it nearly as much as I like something like Chuck, which has a serial feel and a strong sense of history and development.

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Some of the ‘slowed to a crawl’, along with just tired of the characters.
Of course, some of it is my butterfly mind – can only stay on 1 subject for so long before I’m off to something completely different.
Finding that right now with the Sholan Alliance series by Lisanne Norman. This is a series I cannot decide whether I really like it or not (doing a re-read to decide), but she writes well enough to keep my interest in what’s going to happen next. I started book 5 last night and put it back down – suddenly decided I didn’t really care what happened to the characters. Think I’ll go read some Wen Spencer or David Drake for a while. Or even some light stuff like Chicks in Chainmail.

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I think I just have a short attention span because even if it’s a series I really like, I usually stop after the third book. Sometimes sooner. That’s why I decided if I write any series to keep it at a trilogy or four books max. The only series that I have kept reading (I am on the sixth) of the Camolod Chronicles by Jack Whyte. And only because I am impressed by the historical detail and the way he has re-created the Arthurian myths. It’s not a page turner, that’s for sure, but I like it.

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response on the web:

When it starts to bore me – or when the author loses it (Anne Rice comes to mind).
I’ve stuck w/Laurell K Hamilton, lords know why (she DOES write interesting sex scenes but sheesh lets get some story…)
I probably won’t read more tho – I stopped w/the Merry Gentry cause ooops, no more story…
I’ve dabbled w/a couple of other series where I read one book to see what the fuss is about, but don’t care that much about it to continue (Kim Harrison, for instance)
BB
Teleri

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response on the web:

I’ve not bothered with later Anne Rice vampires for much the same reason, and I gave up on the Robert Jordan’s around book 9 – I was bored and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. I gave up on Freya Warrington’s Blackbird series when she killed off my favourite character.

Usually it’s a loss of focus on a character who interests me, that causes me to walk away. these days I don’t embark on series readily.

Bryn.

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I think for me, what stops a sequel is the factor that what could have been completed in one novel, drags into the next and the next. etc. I was not enthralled with the Potter series and there are some current books that seem to me to be driven by the objectivity of the author to make the most amount of money from an idea whether it be a good one or not, or one that should end at the completion at the first book.

That being said, I did enjoy the Millennium trilogy as well as The Hunger Games Young Adult novels.

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