When it comes to writing a book, there are some basic givens that most readers expect, like when the book ends, there is a certain amount of closure. How much of a story line can be left hanging and the reader still accept it? At what point does the fact that you’ve left it open, bring the reader to say I’m never reading anything from this author again?
As a reader I look for books that are part of a series because when I’ve invested my time in a good story, I want to know what happens to those characters after the book has ended. That said there can be an amount of the story left for the reader to wonder, but how much will the reader tolerate?
I recently finished what was a fairly entertaining book, but when the end came…. I was left out in the wind like a dangling participle. It just STOPPED. There was no amount of closure, no end to even a minor conflict, and I was not encouraged to pick up the next book, which happened to be lying on the edge of my desk. No, I was irritated and ready to take both back to the library. For me, my tolerance ended when the book ended in the middle of a battle, the middle of a battle! I don’t have to know that the man the heroine has been after the entire book, comes back to propose, it’s enough that they are talking, that their is hope. I don’t have to know that the entire empire was rebuilt and prospered, it’s enough that the king still lives. But I do have to have the major conflict answered. The idea behind a sequel is to entice he reader to return, not drop them like a rock.
This is not the first series of books that I’ve come across that has, in my opinion, made this mistake. What makes one authors handling of this situation different from the next? What motivated me to buy the second book in that series, but be unwilling to read the one I’d gotten from the library? I think for me it was how it just ended. This book ended, literally, during a battle, the other book left you hanging, but in that the MC was stuck in a dungeon, safe for the moment. Is this the difference? The MC’s are safe versus still fighting for the life? For years I have followed a popular authors books where the MC is torn between two men, in each book she is about to climb into the arms of one of these two, we never know which until the next book, this works for her. Would it work for anybody else? I guess the point is though, that she is not in a battle to live, just to have love returned.
Where is your limit? How much can be left and you’ll return? On the opposite end of that, but definitely a question that belongs in this same genre; how much pre-story will you tolerate? Are you turned off by a story that includes a lengthy prologue that needs to be read before you can even hope to understand what is about to happen in this story? Or books where you must learn a new language, in the form of a dictionary at the front of the book? These are things for every author to consider when writing a series and for the reader to decide before picking up book one.