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Author Topic: To Series or Not To Series
Denevius
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The appeal of writing a series is definitely there. One of the first questions a publisher asks a genre writer is if they're playing on a series, or at least a trilogy. On aesthetics grounds it's easy to say 'No'. Series retread the same ground, and the longer they become, the worse they tend to walk down that narrative path. Plus, on a personal level, I've almost never enjoyed any book in a series past the first one.

What I can't deny, though, is that readers in general don't feel that way. I know plenty of people who get hooked on a series, and they'll have their favorites and least favorites in the collection, but will overall enjoy the universe they're engaged in. So the question becomes, if you're fortunate enough to get a fanbase, do you continue in the same narrative universe for that fanbase (as well as financial rewards, of course).

I think of Harrison Ford, who, so the story goes, didn't really want to continue further in the Star Wars world, so the writers decided to freeze Han Solo in 'Empire Strikes Back'. Yet 30 some years later, and in the latest installment of Star Wars, here he is again. I'm definitely going to try to write my novel's sequel in a way that closes the universe to further editions, but who knows. JK Rowling is writing yet another 'Harry Potter' book. This time it's about his kid, right?

Nature finds a way.

So for those of you who've written, are writing, or want to write a series, do you see a conclusion to your character's story? Or is it more just open-ended? If you have something else to write on the subject, you'll write something more. Are you waiting until you've simply run out of words to fill the page with before finally concluding that the narrative universe has gone cold?

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Meredith
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My current series (DUAL MAGICS) always had a definite end. It just required more than one book to get there. The fourth book (which I am still writing the first draft of) will be the last, at least for this set of characters. There is a small, but non-zero chance that I will revisit the world with other characters. Perhaps a prequel series to explain how the world got that way in the first place.

I plan a couple of other series, down the road. One will be similar, with a defined arc that's just too big for a single book. (I think, I haven't written it yet. It could surprise me.) The other will be more the episodic kind of series, where each book will be a complete story and there won't be so much of a series arc. Still probably best read chronologically, though.

I have one other world (the one DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING takes place in) that could spawn a series, but it would be even less connected. Different characters for each story, with previous main characters appearing only briefly, if at all. I have a couple of ideas for those stories, but they're not near the top of the list, yet.

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Denevius
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That's the other issue. To be a series writer, you have to be a proliferate writer.I completed two novels in my late teens, started another two that I didn't finish in my 20s, and wrote one novel, the current one, in my 30s. I've started the sequel that I'm aiming to finish in two years, so that would be 4 completed novels by the time I'm 40.

Not bad, but at this rate I'll be 80 before I finish another 4. Not exactly a good track record for marathon writing. I do tend to only write one fresh page a day, though I'll edit what's already been written throughout the day. And I also take off a couple of years between novels.

I guess it also becomes a question of how often you find inspiration, as each new title in a series still needs a spark of life unique to itself. For me, I literally have to change my life (basically my immediate surroundings) in order to be inspired. For writers who live in basically the same area, know basically the same people, and do basically the same thing, where does the inspiration for a new title in the collection come from?

For instance, my novel to be published this year took place on a small island. It's sequel has a backdrop of one of the biggest, most populated megacities in the world. Quite the stark contrast, which feeds the narrative.

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extrinsic
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A series is an ongoing and overall action released in sequential installments, a new installment generally within a year or two of a prior installment. Each installment completes an action and also furthers an overall action. Action to mean a dramatic event, setting, or character transformation, or more than one of those existents, from an unstable state to a stable state, for good or ill fortune.

In order to complete a satisfying series, some sense of the overall action is needed at the start, to compose and to engage readers for the whole. Series often less than ideally start and then wander toward no stable end due to an unrealized overall action. The franchise may involve the same milieu and character cast per installment, though each installment stands alone in terms of from an unstable to a stable state.

Such franchises may be -ologies, though are not serial action series. They are stand-alones.

All this above to suggest an answer of whether to serial or otherwise. I expect fantastic prose publishers favor series that build sales and are as likely as writers to misapprehend what a series is and is not. A selling point, though, is demonstration a writer does know the difference, ideally through implication that each serial installment introduces and furthers an overall action and that nonetheless satisfies each installment's action. And the overall action and per-installment action are congruent.

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Denevius
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quote:
I expect fantastic prose publishers favor series that build sales and are as likely as writers to misapprehend what a series is and is not.
Majayo. This would be my reluctance in agreeing with a series. When I try and think of franchises that successfully tackled the format, not much comes to mind. But like I said before, one must also admit that the casual consumer seems to dig them, no matter their quality. And they'll debate plot contradictions; 'Why didn't Obi Wan recognize androids that he had direct experience with in his youthful days'; but they'll still love the series anyway.

It's interesting that LOTR is the current classic example of a series that people think of when crafting their own, all the time not realizing that the first one starts with a group of people trying to reach a mountain to destroy a ring, and the last book ends with said ring destroyed at said mountain by people from that initial group.

But if LOTR was written today, instead we'd see the ring destroyed in the first title, and then after that who knows. Probably the Dark Lord is trying to build a second ring, which the Company has to then stop. The third book will have them finally confronting the Dark Lord, who is killed...only to be resurrected by an evil wizard who wants to bend the Lord's ring making abilities to his own whim. This particular plot will take the 4th and 5th titles to conclude since now you have two major antagonist: the evil wizard and the Dark Lord.

And then, in the last book, they'll be the final confrontation between the Company and the Dark Lord in which the Company finally vanquishes him once and for all. Though of course, that plot resolution could have been concluded just as easily in the very first book.

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Robert Nowall
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I'm against it. I feel a writer ought to say what he has to say inside the covers of one book...that it's okay to write a sequel or use characters again, but the reader shouldn't be obligated to buy a bunch of books just to find out what's going on...and that neverending series books tend to go down in quality after the first several...

(Tolkien didn't write a series---"The Lord of the Rings" is one novel originally published in three parts.)

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Denevius
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I agree with you, Robert, which is why for aesthetic reasons the answer is an easy 'No'. But ultimately, readers do seem to really enjoy fiction series. Even when they go down in quality, there just seems to be something innately satisfying with sticking with characters as they live their lives in the narrative universe.

I haven't read a series I enjoyed since high school, but I still can't help but buy the next title if I really enjoyed the first one. Because of this impulse, I've passed up books that I know don't end in book 1. I don't want to get sucked into a narrative format that has disappointed me a 100% of the time so far.

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Robert Nowall
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Yup, that's it. One of the reasons I never read George Railroad Martin's "Game of Thrones" series was that I wanted it to be complete, that I'd have all of it on hand when I started---and partway through, the series became open-ended.

Somewhere 'round the boards is an old rant about this, including multi-volume biographies where years and sometimes decades pass between individual volumes. I certainly can accept cramming somebody's life into a single volume doesn't always work...but I'd like to see them come out closer together.

Ah, well...the second half of the first serious Frank Sinatra biography came out...but I'm still waiting, decades on now, for the second part of a Bing Crosby bio...the fourth volume of a Lyndon Johnson biography only takes things up to 1964...a multi-part Orson Welles biography ends in the late 1940s and I don't know if they'll even *be* another volume...and, with this happening in non-fiction, isn't it obvious why I don't like it in fiction?

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Meredith
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Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:

It's interesting that LOTR is the current classic example of a series that people think of when crafting their own

LOTR is not a series. Serial, maybe. But it's really just one story published in three volumes. If I had been reading it at the time it was published, I would have been furious at the places where those volumes ended.

When I say series I mean any of a range of things. Mostly individual stories (with a beginning, middle, and end) that together make up a larger story arc. (That's what my DUAL MAGICS series is.) But I would also include things like Lois McMaster Bujold's VORKOSIGAN SAGA or Patricia Briggs' MERCY THOMPSON series which are independent stories that show chronological changes and growth in the characters but not necessarily a coherent overall story arc across the books.

I've also learned to really dislike--and feel abused by--the kind of series that doesn't end anything for multiple books. *cough* WHEEL OF TIME *cough* Generally, I won't read those until the series is complete--and maybe not then.

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extrinsic
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Tolkein intended the Ring trilogy to be one volume of three books. Marketing sense decided three volumes was more manageable. "Book" is also a major division after chapter and before volume, as well as the general sense of a single physical codex.

Serial publication likewise began for marketing purposes; a complete manuscript serially published in weekly or monthly installments in periodical publications: newspapers and, later, magazines.

"Sequel" dates to the same era and is likewise the continued course of a story published in installments.

A nonsequential installment of a narrative milieu that completes a stand-alone story without an overall dramatic event connection and is possibly connected only by general settings and characters could be labeled a franchise. The connotative sense of a creative activity free of the burden or restriction of a single dramatic event, setting territory, and characters involved comes close to such a narrative practice.

Saga is similar to series, though the word's Norse origins' denotative sense is a narrative about the not per se connected events, settings, and individuals of an age or era and cultural milieu -- a setting characteristic and more franchise specific than per se serial sequence. Though a saga's length and time to recount fosters serial telling. Scriptures are sagas and franchises more than connected serial narratives.

In other words, such labels are slippery and prone to context-sensitive intent and interpretation. Individual writer narrative division distinctions are more a matter of self-definition for purposes of creative organization than matters of publishing culture absolute definitiveness, plus a conversation between writer, editor, publisher, and reader open to interpretation.

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Denevius
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quote:
(Tolkien didn't write a series---"The Lord of the Rings" is one novel originally published in three parts.)

LOTR is not a series. Serial, maybe.

Tolkein intended the Ring trilogy to be one volume of three books.

Haha, okay, noted.

quote:
One of the reasons I never read George Railroad Martin's "Game of Thrones" series was that I wanted it to be complete, that I'd have all of it on hand when I started---and partway through, the series became open-ended.
He's probably one of the worst known offenders of milking a book series in recent history. I've heard that he's planning on wrapping up the series finally in two or three more books, but I have my doubts. There can always be prequels, and a new series based on one of the characters most enjoyed by fans believed not to have gotten enough page time.

quote:
*cough* WHEEL OF TIME *cough*
I had a friend who was really into this series for a long time before he told me how terrible the books became. And then the author up and died without finishing it. But I guess there is closure since someone else completed the series after the author's death.

quote:
In other words, such labels are slippery and prone to context-sensitive intent and interpretation.
I think of series happening after the third novel since we have the word 'sequel', we have the word 'trilogy', but not really a word for a fourth or fifth novel.

quote:
Saga is similar to series, though the word's Norse origins' denotative sense is a narrative about the not per se connected events, settings, and individuals of an age or era and cultural milieu
A saga *might* not be so bad to write. New characters operating under the same rules of the created universe. I still think, though, that the same pitfalls exist for the sequel, serial, franchise, or saga. And as a writer, I think it's hard to avoid them. You're basically left with one of two options:

1) Write a mediocre debut novel that steadily improves in quality in subsequent books. Sometimes a narrative needs to hit its stride, though as a reader I definitely stay away from this situation. I have neither the time or patience to finish a bad book just to get to the better one later on. But I think this is how many self-published series are. If a reader can hang on for the first one or two books, they'll be pleasant engaged by the 3rd, 4th, 5th...

2) Write a good debut novel that steadily declines in quality in subsequent books. I think this is how most traditionally published series are, as it's more difficult to get a bad book traditionally published.

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Grumpy old guy
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'Series' is such a vague and generic term. You can have a straight episodic series where the characters remain static as does the milieu, only the problems change and each is resolved by the end of the book. Then, you can have the episodic underpinned by a larger narrative. In this instance, while each book may deal with a single issue it does so within a larger context and narrative so that each 'book' moves the larger narrative along to its conclusion. The Babylon 5 TV series is a perfect example.

But don't confuse a trilogy, or a septology, or an octology with a series. These are simply a larger story broken down into manageable, bite size pieces.

If you have an idea for a series (I have two--one straight episodic and one with a larger narrative) you just may have a nice little money earner on your hands. But if you try and stretch a story to fit a trilogy when there's barely enough for two books, you're going to turn your reputation into mud.

In the end the decision is both an artistic one and one for your publisher. As for declining quality of writing, my own pride wouldn't let me publish it just for the sake of a few extra dollars.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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Static situations have their limits---for instance, I lost interest in "The Simpsons" when I realized none of them were ever going to change much, no matter what life-altering thing was going on in individual episodes.

But with an ongoing story arc, TV or book series, you run the risk of alienating your followers by not delivering the goods by the end---TV shows like "Lost" and "Twin Peaks" didn't really do that, did they?---and, as I said somewhere above, a lot of written series go downhill in the long run.

Better to say what you want to say in a single book. Leave room for a sequel...but don't require one...

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Denevius
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quote:
'Series' is such a vague and generic term. You can have a straight episodic series where the characters remain static as does the milieu, only the problems change and each is resolved by the end of the book. Then, you can have the episodic underpinned by a larger narrative. In this instance, while each book may deal with a single issue it does so within a larger context and narrative so that each 'book' moves the larger narrative along to its conclusion.
Point taken. It is vague.

quote:
But don't confuse a trilogy, or a septology, or an octology with a series. These are simply a larger story broken down into manageable, bite size pieces.
Here's the rub, I think. My current novel was written specifically to require a sequel needed to conclude the story. The sequel is intended to do just that.

quote:
Better to say what you want to say in a single book. Leave room for a sequel...but don't require one...
I think I did just that. The first novel has a definite ending to the events. There's simply another layer hinted at that doesn't *have* to be explored, but would make the first novel more complete if it is.

I think many writers have a similar notion, but once they've published, they keep dipping into the same well. Especially if the first book has attracted a significant audience.

Okay, so maybe it's not a serial, or a series, or even a sequel. But when Madeline L'Engle wrote "A Wrinkle In Time", somehow I really doubt she had any plans to then write, "A Swiftly Tilting Planet", or "A Wind in the Door". And though both of these are perfectly fine books, they pale in comparison to the first book of this "series". And yes, I think she wrote them because she needed to write something. To stay relevant, to pay the bills. So she looked at previous characters from a previously successful book and decided 'Why not?'

Maybe I've missed it, but I can't remember the last sequel, trilogy, etc., that felt like it was written as one compete whole and then separated into parts. Except LOTR.

Right now, the initial mystery of my novel requires the sequel to *most* fully answer the question of 'Why?' But anything beyond that, while maybe fun for fans, would be material that wasn't originally intended for the narrative universe as I imagined it. And I guess my point is, Does it matter? I've developed a distaste for most fiction because I find it hard to take off my editor's cap. But the average reader is simply looking to be entertained. To be taken away from their real world to a constructed, engaging fiction world.

To series or not to series.

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extrinsic
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A Song of Ice and Fire's unity shortfalls are legend and, well, a matter of craft considerations. What did Martin miss? Unifiers. He wrote a milieu travelogue because that's what he could do. A reason for the saga's popularity is its cliffhanger enticements that arouse curiosity and then don't fulfill their promises. Character empathy-sympathy builds just enough development to start tension, then destroys it.

To me, the saga is like a steady diet of fast-food takeout, tastes okay hot and fresh though is eaten stale and tepid and is addictive like a drug, say cocaine that tantalizes with a climactic peak promise that cannot be attained short of death. Or inhalants.

Though I have similar sentiments about James Joyce's later writing.

Couldn't craft a well-plotted long fiction out of a box kit. Oh the tyrannies of plot.

Yet I read Joyce to discover strengths and shortfalls, identify where a narrative went off the rails -- intent to start off off the rails in the first place and no idea what other rhetoric substitutes -- and Martin and similar ongoing sagas and franchises. This to me is a foregone consequence of too much reliance on intuitive craft and insufficient preparation before, during, and after draft composition, especially revision composition. This latter is how, after I lost my blissful innocent obliviousness to simple reading enjoyment, I rediscovered my passion and more for reading.

Yet I read such narratives anyway because I keep up with the culture across time and space. The culture's opus is itself a record of the human saga, from the earliest surviving narratives to the latest, an account of the human milieu across time and space.

Actually, for a thought exercise, I imagine the First Story Ever Told. Gogogue leads a troupe from a vulnerable place through to a safe, for now, place, for example.

The story is a conversational debrief account told at a night campfire by the troupe, led by an imaginative individual, assumes language and fire use emerged simultaneously enough along the trek. Or a mammoth hunt. Or a forage gather. Some event pre-paleolithic. A similar contemporary story could be about hunting mistletoe with double-ought ten-gauge shotguns. Or grazing a fruit and vegetable aisle in a big-box Halzmart.

A human condition invariably of a moral nature is paramount. What Joyce and Martin miss most of all -- oh, they show human conditions all right, though offer no commentary or attitude to express accessible meaning and intent, a clear opinion position to delight, to refuse, to accept, to assent. Here's Leopold, he does this, he does that, he goes home. No commentary, no meaning: no story movement.

A moral human condition of sufficient antagonal magnitude will support a series of many volumes. A moral human condition of focused and narrow magnitude will support a short, even micro fiction. Story movement begins when one is introduced, no sooner, no later.

Yet, to me, resistance to express moral and emotional tableaus is a human trait, is socially considerate, and a shortfall of many prose works. Once that resistance is overcome, next comes moral topic focus development, next comes artful misdirection craft such that a narrative doesn't overtly preach. And human morals have, if anything, become more corrupted since humans first became social beings, the beginning. Plentiful cornucopias of fertile moral material remains for continuance of the human saga.

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Robert Nowall
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I can't speak for motivations, and I might be wrong here, but...it seemed Martin wrote his fantasy series because he saw Tolkien-ish fantasy as possible big business and said to himself, "Me, too!" But I also thought he had little affection for the form, that he was just doing it for the sake of commerce. (I gather he's missed deadlines for turning in the next volume, which might suggest this, too.)
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Grumpy old guy
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A sequel does not a series make, nor a duology. A sequel can be a stand alone story with separate characters that answers questions left 'hanging' in the original story.

Phil.

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Robert Nowall
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I looked up the last list of latest releases on the Locus website...out of nine books, three were "in a series" or "in a trilogy"...four were not...two were anthologies. So by that listing, "seriesitis" is an important commercial genre.
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Robert Nowall
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The list posted sometime today has seven-out-of-nine series books.
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Meredith
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It is a fact that series sell better--and have more opportunities for promotions, too.
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Denevius
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quote:
It is a fact that series sell better--and have more opportunities for promotions, too.
Which is true, and as writers living tangible lives, monetary rewards for doing work we enjoy shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I guess if I were to turn "Natural Police" into a series, saga, franchise...basically, going beyond the sequel I had planned to more than three books onward into an uncertain future, there would be use in seeing what I dislike about numerous books that take place in a single narrative universe.

1) A set end needs to be created that won't change as the novel count grows. I think this is important to not go the way of an open-ended style series like Game of Thrones.

2) A character can't reach a pinnacle of power in book 1 to suddenly become weak again in the face of an even bigger, more powerful threat in subsequent books. Japanese magnas have a tendency of doing this. No matter how powerful one of the protagonist get at the end of an plotline, they always manage to meet another antagonist that's even more mind-blowingly powerful.

3) On the same note, the protagonist requires weaknesses in order to cultivate narrative tension. Movies more than books fall victim to this. 'Matrix Reloaded' is on Netflix right now, and watching it, there's hardly any tension because Neo is all-powerful. He's super fast, he stops bullets by raising his hand, he flies 500 miles in a matter of minutes.

If the movie was meant to be a trilogy, which I seriously doubt by the way it's written, and by how bad the 2nd and 3rd one were, then the fight between Neo and Agent Smith that happened in the first movie shouldn't have happened until the last movie. Neo learning to control the Matrix would have been a good narrative arch. To this day, I'm not even sure what was accomplished in the 3rd movie, and since I've only seen it once and have no intention of ever seeing it again, I guess I won't find out.

4) Don't revisit events readers are familiar with from earlier books and rewrite them to fit into later books. Again, Japanese magnas are guilty of this. By the 200th issue, you'll find out that a person who was always portrayed as a bad guy was actually a good guy, or vice versa.

Didn't JK Rowling do something similar? I heard that that kid's mouse was actually evil or something, even though there was no hint of this in the first novels.

I think the first point is key, though. Once you decide to turn a novel that wasn't originally meant to be into a series/franchise/saga/anything longer than a trilogy, you need to settle upon an ending, and stick to it.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
3) On the same note, the protagonist requires weaknesses in order to cultivate narrative tension. Movies more than books fall victim to this. 'Matrix Reloaded' is on Netflix right now, and watching it, there's hardly any tension because Neo is all-powerful. He's super fast, he stops bullets by raising his hand, he flies 500 miles in a matter of minutes.

If the movie was meant to be a trilogy, which I seriously doubt by the way it's written, and by how bad the 2nd and 3rd one were, then the fight between Neo and Agent Smith that happened in the first movie shouldn't have happened until the last movie. Neo learning to control the Matrix would have been a good narrative arch. To this day, I'm not even sure what was accomplished in the 3rd movie, and since I've only seen it once and have no intention of ever seeing it again, I guess I won't find out.

The second episode sets up and the third continues an overall milieu arc more than character arc: life or death for all of Zion. Unlike general trends for dystopias, Matrix's action actually translates to a change for the better of the milieu's apocalyptic condition.

Neo is poised as an agency, one of several, who facilitates the outcome for Zion. His demise, too, a selfless sacrifice, becomes a foregone outcome from the second into the third episode. Spectator hopes Neo survives turn upon, dramatic pivot, from Neo's overall first half character development to the survival of Zion paramount from then and further. The inevitably of his demise, though, doesn't eliminate hope he survives and Zion, a tension engine.

Timing of the overall climax falls midway, second episode midway climax too, and then a tragic crisis sets up for the overall outcome; that is, now certain of an all-out attack on Zion's defenses, which is more of a backdrop beforehand, from the first episode onward.

The structure of the Matrix trilogy is a classic Freytag shape: exposition act, rising action act, climax act, falling action act, denouement act, with crises pivots bookended for each act, and each episode and installment movement. First episode develops characters' emphases, second develops events emphases, third develops milieu emphases, all the while secondary emphases unfold and shift emphasis priority congruent to the parts, parcels, and wholes.

A more focused work would have kept to a single foreground existent emphasis, event, setting and milieu, or character transformation. The Matrix is film, though; multimedia, multi-perspective, and spectacle are film strengths. A trilogy or other n-ology demands variety. A primary film shortfall is interior discourse, written word's strength, a prime story mover for character emphasis, a challenge to manage and maintain through film.

[ January 26, 2016, 11:04 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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quote:
Unlike general trends for dystopias, Matrix's action actually translates to a change for the better of the milieu's apocalyptic condition.
This reminds me of a long conversation I had with a friend about the future of Zion, and how probably those born free (pure) would feel superior to those with the plugs embedded in their bodies. Though actually I remember reading that Zion was hinted at being just another Matrix, and that by the end of the trilogy, we still hadn't seen what the "real world" actually was. This was because it was left unexplained how Neo was able to see the "real world" as if it was a created world after he became blinded.

In the "real world", this ability Neo displayed shouldn't have been possible (at least, not by any rules the movie had given us previously).

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extrinsic
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Like all fiction, what's explained unequivocally drags, stalls, or stops movement and engagement. Implication, accessible by degrees, spectator dependent, invokes imagination through intellectual engagement.

The gritty reality of Zion and the milieu's real world with all its non-ideal characteristics compared to the characters' self-idealization in the Matrix implies real-world parallels. They are mortals in the milieu's real world and gods in the Matrix.

Neo's ability to see even after he's blinded is a further behavioral development that builds from cues as early as the first episode -- "there's way too much information to decode the Matrix. You get used to it, though. Your brain does the translating. I don't even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead. Hey uh, you want a drink?" (Cypher) That is an early cue that implies different degrees of being able to see into the Matrix from the milieu's real world.

Neo's doing so without a computer monitor is a progression development of the whole. How accessible that feature is is diminished by subtlty, though from repeated viewings of the films becomes more accessible.

Anyway, the narrative method is specifically labeled "incluing," in-scene method for cluing in spectators, readers, to existents' nature (events, settings, characters, complications, conflicts) and their changed states of being through cues and clues and hints that imply, show, rather than tell, summarize, explain, or directly inform readers. This is a master class skill worth study and development, one that distinguishes challenged writers from experienced writers. Also, a reading skill that is as difficult to master, though the reading skill acquisition likely comes beforehand.

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Robert Nowall
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Not sure how a discussion of the merits and demerits of series writing devolved into a philosophical discussion of "The Matrix" movies. (Never seen 'em.)
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Denevius
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Honestly, sometimes it's easier to talk about movies when discussing craft. For instance, I've read the two books I mentioned in the same post I brought up 'The Matrix'.

"A Swiftly Tilting Planet" and "A Wind in the Door". But how many others here have? It's a surer bet that more people have seen movies mentioned (though like you said, you haven't seen the Matrix, so that's a bet that would have been lost on this count).

In that same post, I also mentioned J.K. Rowling, though the book and narrative in question I haven't read in which she went rewrote known rules, aka that rat, in order to fit one of the titles later on in the series. So there's a limit to how much I can actually say about it, though I'd be really surprised if there were any hints of what would eventually happen to this rat (or mouse) in book I when it's introduced.

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extrinsic
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Difficulty arises when discussing writing craft without models all interested readers have read. What, should we assign reading? That raises more matters and difficulties. An intention instead, of mine anyway, could use content that illustrates and demonstrates a method rather than per se requires reading or viewing of the subject matter.

The Matrix franchise is a popular film series, must be some reason the product performed spectacularly in the marketplace, in spite of negative criticism, which is also relevant. Likewise the One Ring, Potter, and other blockbuster film and written-word narratives. Why, how, that informs our development as writers?

The Matrix's degree of spectacle is one of the attractions: dramatic martial arts segments, explosions, god-like abilities, relevant human condition tableaus (digital machine intelligence overlords -- fears thereof in the Digital age), etc.

For craft study, the Matrix films evince a number of subtle techniques; incluing is one. Subtler, how film's shortfall, interior life discourse, presents. Those two are distinguishable though overlap, more challenge to study.

I've thought that a writing workshop could have one agreed-upon reading model that all participants read so we all have a common ground to work from. That is as likely to go over as a lead balloon. A first problem arises from matters of copyright respect, a whole work subject to posting is more than best practice. A short fiction in any case so no onerous reading chore impedes participant readers reading.

So ideally, a pre-1923 or copyright-lapsed short story is a best-practice model. A bolus of science fiction short stories lapsed copyright mid twentieth century. They are still dated compared to present day and foreseeable future appeal and method.

Next, a matter of individual preference by genre, era, grammatical person, mannerism, voice, narrative point of view, focal characters, ad infinitum, short story models is problematic. Individual favorites and oppositions sway a selection and raise dissent.

A genuine leadership consensus development effort would use a democratic process to select one model short story. Interested individuals nominate three each. Preliminary votes narrow the field to a manageable few. Final votes choose one. Leadership's sole role is facilitating the selection process, not any decision-making or promotion of any candidate or imposition of a unilateral command decision -- that latter is the usual criteria for institutional creative writing instruction workshops: assigned reading.

I'd nominate John Sentry's (Algis Budrys) "The Stoker and the Stars" for its management of pure tell, a story told in first person directly to a "real" audience; Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" for an exceptional plot structure; that is, in medias res start and singly a denouement act; and O Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" for its strong and central narrator attitude. And anticipate strong dissent.

The model short story should only exhibit exemplary methodology, and be nominated based upon such supporting criteria, not be only a sentimental choice, because any published and popular or critically acclaimed short story will do, as far as I'm concerned.

[ February 03, 2016, 01:40 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
Honestly, sometimes it's easier to talk about movies when discussing craft. For instance, I've read the two books I mentioned in the same post I brought up 'The Matrix'.

In that same post, I also mentioned J.K. Rowling, though the book and narrative in question I haven't read in which she went rewrote known rules, aka that rat, in order to fit one of the titles later on in the series. So there's a limit to how much I can actually say about it, though I'd be really surprised if there were any hints of what would eventually happen to this rat (or mouse) in book I when it's introduced.

I haven't seen more than a glimpse of the Matrix series either.

Harry Potter, though . . .

Okay, it's been awhile since I read the books. From memory, the rat (who turns out to be Peter Pettigrew) appears only briefly in the first book, HP AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, when Ron unsuccessfully tries to demonstrate a spell to turn him yellow. All that's said about him then is just that he's Ron's rat, used to be his brother Percy's, but Percy got an owl so the rat was passed down to Ron. Not important enough at that point for more.

The rat doesn't even get mentioned again the third book, HP AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, where the first thing we know about it is that Hermione's cat (which has some magical creature blood) keeps trying to attack it. This, actually, is a sign that the rat is not trustworthy. It doesn't come out in the movie version, but the cat was actually helping Sirius Black hunt down and expose Peter Pettigrew.

So, I wouldn't call it a rewrite of the rules, just something put out there early that didn't have much importance until later.

Now, if you want to criticize her use of the time turners, I'm all in.

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Denevius
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quote:
So, I wouldn't call it a rewrite of the rules, just something put out there early that didn't have much importance until later.

As a reader, it's a development that would frustrate me, but if I remember correctly, the reason why I remember it in the first place is because the twist was well-received by fans to of the series, and thus made the news.

Anyway, this conversation has me thinking that if the first novel does decently, I probably would turn the idea into a series. I'll see how easy it is to write the sequel, if I can complete it by the end of next year, and if it'll be as long as the original

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
From memory, the rat (who turns out to be Peter Pettigrew) appears only briefly in the first book, HP AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, when Ron unsuccessfully tries to demonstrate a spell to turn him yellow. All that's said about him then is just that he's Ron's rat, used to be his brother Percy's, but Percy got an owl so the rat was passed down to Ron. Not important enough at that point for more.

The rat doesn't even get mentioned again the third book, HP AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, where the first thing we know about it is that Hermione's cat (which has some magical creature blood) keeps trying to attack it. This, actually, is a sign that the rat is not trustworthy. It doesn't come out in the movie version, but the cat was actually helping Sirius Black hunt down and expose Peter Pettigrew.

So, I wouldn't call it a rewrite of the rules, just something put out there early that didn't have much importance until later.

The Scabbers segment from the first installment is an example of incluing -- also a Chekhov's Gun, symbolism, idiosyncrasy, pre-positioning, foreshadowing, and characterization. Rowling's use of those methods is masterful throughout the saga. Scabbers hand-me-down nature characterizes Ronald, the Weasley's, and the merry trio as well, develops setting characterization, and deft antagonism development. And what but bad news can a rat symbolize? The creature is pitiful, too, from its missing digit, an idiosyncrasy, though one that does become relevant and matters later.

Also the rat bites Gregory Goyle in the first installment, a brilliant piece of foreshadowing, etc., that likewise matters later, and later again. The rat that bites the hand, Ronald's hand, too, later -- bites the hand that feeds it: betrayal. Wormtail-Pettigrew figuratively bites everyone's hand, includes Voldemort, he is the agency of Voldemort's pre-action first demise and scatter to the horcuxes. Potter, Ronald, of course, Potter's parents. etc. Self-serving character that he is, he's a rat and all that that represents, as the saga unfolds when what his true nature is matters.

Such development, for each installment when relevant, signals his current and later importance to the action, and likewise prompts Wormtail's early introduction and -- this -- word count degree of emphasis and necessity for a serial product, or vice versa, because the end product is a serial, a longer inclue unravel of his role; and the action warrants proportioned and quality and timely drawn-out quantity emphasis of his character and agency development until poetic justice catches up to him.

Rowling uses many literary methods; most, if not all but one are customs from across the literary opus in masterful hands. She. though, builds upon extant knowledge in her use of the methods. Three ways toward lively freshness, if not originality: reorganize extant knowledge such that organization offers new perspective; add to, build upon extant knowledge at least an iota; introduce new knowledge. Rowling's one new knowledge is the association of the seven installments with school year class and age. Seven installments, seven years, the seven years of customary "apprentice" age, ages 11 through 18 -- a coming-of-age tableau paced and matched to the middle grade and young adult years of social maturation development. Brilliant.

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Denevius
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I'm finally almost done the second draft of the first story of 5 6000 word stories world building the sequel. As I was plotting (daydreaming) the next story, I realized that I may have to pull a PULP FICTION and have a character deceased in the original play a role in the sequel. Backstory told in a present moment.

One thing I did with each chapter of NATURAL POLICE was date and time it, so for those who've read it, it probably wouldn't be too confusing if a chapter in the sequel begins days, months, years, or even minutes before the first chapter of the original novel.

Right now, I can't recall if this is something that disrupts me from a fictional universe because I can't think of the last series I read in which something similar happened. However, I am once again reading CATCH 22, one of my favorite novels, and within it's non-linear narrative, people dead in one part of the book live again in another.

What's the last non-linear series anyone has read here? Not a format in which there's prequels, or in which a character gets a novel(s) of his own, such as is common in the Star Wars/Star Trek franchises. But a five book series, for instance, in which the true "end" of the universe happens in book 2 or 3?

I remember hearing about a version of PULP FICTION on Youtube where someone made the narrative linear. Sounds like a terrible idea, and right now, I don't remember what the opening scene of the movie actually is, and what the closing scene is. Must be the one in which the boxer and his girlfriend ride off on Zed's motorcycle, as every other scene, Vincent is still alive.

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LDWriter2
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I am late to this party-by a lot but I have some thought son it.

I like series and I am doing one now-working on the second one with an idea of what the third one will be about-but some stories are just for a single tale. I have done those too.

I do have three maybe four series of short stories. One is out in an Indie novel, one is one my blog and two more are waiting to be placed in book form. I like some of them too. Isaac Asimov had at least two about which I had hoped he would do more in them.

As to going further with a series and nature finding a way. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found out the hard way that fans also find a way. Not that it probably hurt him all that much but he gave in to the fans. I believe other writers have also.

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LDWriter2
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Forgot a point. My very first novel was so long I turned it into a trilogy. I don't know if trilogies would be considered series for this discussion but there are plenty of them around. They are usually long versions of one tale though so they could be in a different category.
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Denevius
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quote:
Not that it probably hurt him all that much but he gave in to the fans. I believe other writers have also.
Personally, I think it's the norm. It probably has to do with the transitional process.

The average person who writes has a bunch of ideas floating around in their heads, and I think that's why successful authors can say, without exactly lying, that they always had the whole narrative plotted out in their heads, even three, four, five or more books later.

I find this hard to believe. I've been around writers and authors for two decades, and I've never seen the evidence of such pre-plotting so far into the future until *after* the original's success. Until then it's just usually a bunch of ideas a person has that may or may not one day make it into a series.

But as you transition from someone who writes, to a writer, to an author, to a professional author, I think pragmatism sets in. When you want to maintain the momentum you've begun, and you start having deadlines, revising successful narrative universes you've already created is easier, and so just makes sense, especially if your fans are still enjoying it.

Even the literary writer tends to stick to themes. This is why you know their work when you see it.

Reminds me of that line from the movie BASQUIAT: "And you gotta do your work all the time...The same kinda work, the same style over and over again, so people recognize it and don't get confused. Then, once you're famous, you have to keep doing it the same way, even after it's boring, unless you want people to really get mad at you, which they will anyway."

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LDWriter2
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Denevius

This may not exactly fit your point since it wasn't just in his head but Jim Butcher had all of his Harry Dresden books outlined before the first one became a hit.


And I have an idea what the next one is going to be about in the series of mine that I referenced. That includes certain scenes-like the ending one. The fourth book however is a blank. I am leading up to some event that is really huge but have no idea what it is-and the action in the second one is huge. Actually I could move the really huge thing to the fifth book but we shall see.

Again not quite sure about this next example but with Seanan Mcguire's October Daye series she knew at least the basic idea for the first seven books because the first six were written to lead up to what happened in seven. I am sure it wasn't every detail but she knew where the scenes had to eventually lead.

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