Some of my favorite books are parts of series. I have indulged in posting covers here.
Lynette Eason’s Deadly Reunions
Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage
Ronie Kendig’s A Breed Apart
And I’d be remiss not to mention Precious Redhead’s favorite: Colleen Coble’s Mercy Falls
or Dinky Twinkies’ favorite: Jackie Castle’s White Road Chronicles.
Excellent books – all – and highly recommended for Christian Fiction lovers! And episodic. Well naturally. They are all stand-alone books with a central theme, shared characters or situations, or an over-arching subplot that becomes the final book’s main plot.
What’s tough is reading a single story that resembles a series of books. A novel where a section or a single chapter both presents and solves a problem. Think Batman TV show from the 60’s. (My favorite after kindergarten classes and nap time.) Each day they encountered the crooks and had them behind bars in a half hour. (Unless they begged you to return at the “Same Bat time—Same Bat channel” for a to-be-continued episode.)
Some time ago, I was asked to critique a book. Excellent writing. Great characters. Gritty, but compelling. Yet the plot, the romance part of it anyway, took a back seat to different things that happened to the main character. Every chapter was a new episode that would end with a reminder of the main plot and a cliff hanger. Oh, like The Fugitive or Battlestar Galactica. Only with this story, the plot itself was a series a episodes. Three things I noticed about this type of writing:
- Though the story never slowed, the main character bounced from one problem to the next. Usually the first problem was solved before the next one came around, not allowing for a natural stress pile of things happening at one time.
- Some of the things that happened had nothing to do with the plot. The plot itself caused about half of them, but the other half were coincidental. (I hate coincidence – another topic for another time.) In one case, a huge fight broke out because the heroine encountered someone from her childhood. (Not a good childhood.) No connection to the plot. Then, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time for a robbery gone bad. Again, no plot connection. Then, she happened to be visiting with a family when someone came to get revenge on them. Totally outside the plot. And that was just a few of the infractions.
- Things happened TO the main character. She didn’t take action that CAUSED consequences. She was a victim of circumstance after circumstance. The character can become damsel in distress. While a WAIF is a viable archetype, (and has an iron clad spine beneath a needy exterior) the days of Snidley Whiplash tying her to the train tracks are over. But in an episodic novel, the heroine is doomed to react to one terrible thing after another. In the book I read, she was a strong character. Flawed and deep. Yet she rarely took action. Reaction, yes. But not action. To me, stories are more interesting when the main character has to deal with consequences that they’ve caused themselves. At least some of the time.
Your Turn: Have you ever read a book that felt episodic?