Thoughts On: Open vs. Closed Series

When it comes to novels in genre fiction, I most often prefer reading series. I tend to get attached to characters and settings, and as such I find it difficult to let them go after just one book. Series, by virtue of their length relative to single novels, make for a deep experience and pay off dedication and patience in spades.

…or at least, some series do. There are of course different levels of quality amongst the lot, a fact that has much to do with authors and the teams that help with the production process. But I’ve been wondering lately if there might be an additional, more generalized factor to consider: “open” versus “closed” series.

With those terms, I’m referring to the intentions and structure when creating a series. A “closed” series shall (by my decree!) refer to a series that has a specific beginning and end planned from the start. An example that comes to mind is the Harry Potter series. Author J.K. Rowling always intended for there to be seven books chronicling Potter’s years at magic school, in which he grows into his prophesied role of champion of the magic world. Given its structure, it was easy to see the series as one work with different “acts,” each one serving a particular expositional purpose.

The other end of that spectrum would be an “open” series, which may involve some planning (of plot arc, for example) on the author’s or publisher’s part, but by-and-large can conceivably go on and on…and sometimes does. Whether that’s a good thing is of course wholly subjective. Some examples of open series include Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse, and (unless I’m mistaken) the Dresden Files.

Personally, I’m not sure if I prefer one over the other, though I find that there are potential advantages and drawbacks to either type. With an open series, there seems to be more of a day-to-day sort of vibe…wherein a reader is living right alongside there series’ characters, catching them on a random day of life. Characters in these series tend to do a lot of evolving in the long run, and the series itself might drastically change in tone, focus, or even genre (think Anita Blake). The potential pitfall to this is a series outstaying its welcome.


So, what to you think?

  • Do you have a preference for “open” or “closed” series (or maybe a hybrid of the two types)?
  • Can you think of any elements that are typical to either type?
  • Do you think a series can “outstay its welcome”?

6 comments:

  1. I would be tempted to say I prefer 'closed series'. I used to love open series but the more I read the more I want closure. I want to know there's an ending coming up.

    I'm afraid of the Anita Blake syndrome. I really don't want my series to turn bad and completely change. So yeah I like to know it's going somewhere precise.

    While many readers are crying over the announced ending of a particular series I revel in it. I need my HEA. <==coz yes it has to be a HEA lol
    *g*

    I like when there's an 'ending' to each book even if some things aren't settled in the long term. I love Ilona Andrews' books for this reason, each book has an ending of a sort...but THE big issue about Roland will happen throughout the books.

    And yep sadly for me the Sookie books should have ended 2 books ago. :/ Some should just call it a day.

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  2. Interesting post! This is something that I haven't really thought too much about.

    I think I probably read more closed series, but I don't know what I prefer. I'm reading the Sookie Stackhouse books at the moment and although I really enjoyed the beginning books I am beginning to tire of the later ones - and I don't think this series is rounding up any time soon.

    I can think of some crime series that work well as 'open' series - maybe different genres work better for 'open' than others.

    Hmmm...I'm still undecided about what I do prefer.

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  3. I am unsure..but yes I do want a closed series. I do not want to read the last boo and feel like everything is still unsolved, no one got together and I spent 10 years of my life reading a series I now dislike.

    A series can totally outlast its welcome. I do feel the Harris books are there now. The Eavanovich books past them a few books back

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  4. @pattepoilue - Yeah...closed series are a much safer bet for the HEA. Although...when a series goes on for a long while and then the HEA is one of those "bittersweet" type deals...man, that hurts. ^_^

    @Jules - Good point, perhaps some genres just lend themselves better to one or the other. Episodic-type mystery series seem like they've had alot of staying power, since the main draw was the self-contained mystery. they'd I'd like to ask someone who's read the Hardy Boys series for their impressions on the series' long-term quality. ^_^

    @Blodeuedd - Aw, that's sad to hear about the Evanovich books. I've read the first six..hopefully there are still some gems left in the remaining releases?

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  5. Hmmm...I usually loved the open ones but it depends on the writer and the amount of books. For example I still love Singh's Psy/Changeling series even though we already reached book 10 but on some series it would be better to not draw it out. That is the thing I love about a good plotter closed series- the books are more balanced and each one should be fun and entertaining.
    So it seems I can't give a general or better said a coherent answer. LOL

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  6. I tend to enjoy "closed" series - series with an actual end. I also like it when a series ends and leaves me wanting more. Rachel Vincent's Shifters series is an example of a series that ends with the reader actually wanting more. Other series should really stop at book 3 because they degrade after a while.

    ReplyDelete

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