The Art of Writing the First in a Series (and a Tangent)

Nice to see the blog again! I have to issue an apology for being so bad at posting on time. But I got a bit of a nasty shock on Tuesday – my thesis defense was on Friday, and nobody thought I was important enough to know about it. That’s university bureaucracy for you.

The good news is, I did well, I am now a Master of Egyptology (whatever that means), and I have been offered the chance to publish parts of my MA thesis as an article in an upcoming collection. Exciting.

Before I found out that I had to make a presentation and prepare to be raked over the coals by my supervisor and assorted others, I had been cogitating about something. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books that are the beginning of a series. Now, I love a good series. Nothing’s better than immersing myself in a really good world when I know there are three or four books waiting for me.

The popularity of YA series such as The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight have led people to like series, and when one particular series is finished they’ll start looking around for the next big thing. So I understand why editors want to publish someone who says that they’ve got a series planned.

However, I think that perhaps some people more loosely define the term series than I do. Let’s take a book I purchased recently, Opal. Opal was published by World Weaver Press and brought some fresh perspective to the Snow White fairy tale. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, with one exception: I felt a bit cheated by the ending.

The book gears us up, provides mounting tension and excitement and gets us ready for a big finish. And then –

Then there’s an advert for Book Number Two, Coming Soon!

This is something that I’m starting to come across with more regularity. The same thing happened to a lesser extent in Cinder, which was a fun, action-packed, and overall brilliant adaptation of Cinderella. Without spoiling anything, the end of the book is a bit more climactic than Opal, but I still got the feeling that I’d been cheated of my proper conclusion.

It’s basically like ending The Fellowship of the Ring right after the Fellowship has been chosen at the Council of Elrond. Wouldn’t that have been disappointing?

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ending that leaves you wanting more. And in a series, endings don’t have to provide all the answers. You can leave a lot set up for next time. But these days, it’s a gimmick. Everything’s set up for the big climax, and then you get to wait six months or longer just to get the end.

I don’t want to buy a book like that. I want a book that blows me away and leaves me reeling all the way through the last line. If I think the book ended on a cheap note in a blatant attempt to keep people interested, I’ll be disappointed in it. And if I’m disappointed in it, I’ll be less likely to buy the next in the series.

So that’s my latest pet peeve. Is it just me? Do you think I’m crazy?

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Muses and Musings

Yesterday, I found out that my favorite band of modern times has parted ways with their lead singer.

Their press release was muddled, uninformative, and came right in the middle of their American tour. Needless to say, their fanbase was upset and confused.

Symphonic Metal band Nightwish has had its share of problems regarding singers, breakups and bad press. They sacked their first singer in 2005 with an open letter that led to a well-deserved (in my opinion) storm of bad PR. Their parting of ways with their second singer was handled a little more delicately, but a careful look at the circumstances makes it clear that things didn’t end amicably here, either.

I’ve never been much for muses, but the music of this band always inspired me. The melodies and lyrics carried extra stories in them just waiting to be tapped into and released. Sometimes I would listen to just one song for days and days while writing a story to match its pace and theme.

The discovery of this news left me depressed. I love their work so much that I want to be able to love the people involved just as unequivocally. I just want to listen to good music, and write to it when the mood strikes!

But I’ve found that now the music has a little bit of a taint. It will probably go away in time. But I’m disappointed in my muses, as far as they can be called such. It’s unrealistic to expect that they be more than human, but as I revered their music for so long, I guess I wanted to revere them too. It’s like watching two good friends get divorced. You want to think that neither of them did anything wrong – but you know that both of them contributed to the current state of affairs.

I will continue to use this music as an inspiration, and to follow the journey of my favourite musical artists. I know I should separate their lives from their work, but that’s easier said than done. What do you guys do when an idol disappoints you? Have you had this kind of experience?