21 August 2011

Do you agree? Standalone=plot. Series=character

I don't think I had ever seen the difference between a stand alone book and a series quite in these terms.
But at least a couple of respondents to my poll this week said that they felt standalone books had to be plot driven while an extended series was often dependent on character development.

And yet, I know that in my reviews of books that are part of a series I often remark how nice it is to get to know the characters better. In fact I sometimes use this as a reason for recommending reading a series in order. When an author begins a series, he/she often doesn't reveal all about the main characters. With each new book little bits are added, the characters are fleshed out just a bit more.

With some series, like Donna Leon's Brunetti series, meeting up with Brunetti again is like meeting up with an old friend. We don't need introductions (although that causes a problem for the author if the reader is new to the series) and can get on with the story.

So what do you think? Is that the reason you enjoy reading a series?
Do take the poll over on the right and leave a comment.


Barbara Fister said...

I was prepared to agree, but then I thought of Laura Lippman's standalones, which develop much more depth in their characters than her generally lighter series books, or Dennis Lehane's Mystic River, which is certainly as character-rich as his series. I do think it's true, though, that series by and large are popular because they let readers meet the same cast multiple times and (in most well-liked series) we get to know them better. It also seems often the case that series authors who decide to write a standalone are aiming for a high-concept thriller as a way of reaching a wider audience.

kathy d. said...

I read both series' books and stand-alones. I am a fan of the Brunettis, and have read all of Donna Leon's series.

Picking one up is like visiting old friends, however, I think readers can pick up any one of these books and feel at home.

The reason I don't agree on series being character driven and stand-alones being plot-driven is that I have to like the characters in stand-alones, too.

Thinking about this, I realize that I read a lot of series. Perhaps I don't read enough stand-alones to judge this issue.

However, for instance with Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, a stand-alone, I looked for character development and found it. That is important to me.

And with Mankell's The Man from Beijing, I liked the judge.

Rob Kitchin said...

Any book for it to be enjoyable have to have both good plot and interesting characters. A series does allow character development, but at the same time each instalment needs to be able to be read as a standalone for the story to be fulfilling. Personally I don't care whether a book is a standalone or part of a series as long as it's an entertaining, interesting read.

Philip Amos said...

I had to vote 'No' on this, though first I had to put quite a few 'But aren't there also...' questions out of my mind. My response is based purely on the fact that I read a lot of series, all of which have plot and character in appropriate measure --Donna Leon, Rendell's Wexfords, Carol O'Connell, Reginald Hill, Fred Vargas, Colin Cotterill, Laura Lippmann, Deon Meyer, Karin Fossum and a smorgasbord of other Scandinavians, Mo Hayder, Bernhard Schlink, Kate Atkinson...this could go on for a long time.


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