I enjoy reading romance novels that are part of a series. From Nora Roberts’ series, such as the Chesapeake series or the Irish trilogy, to J.R. Ward's Blackdagger Brotherhood series, it’s great fun to fall in love with characters and have them reappear again in later stories. For me, it’s a completely different kind of satisfaction to see those beloved characters continue to be happy or continue to deal with obstacles in their lives, even after their “main” story is told. And I like the liberties that the author is able to take with characters when they appear in several books.
However, I’ve noticed that this can be a slippery slope for authors, especially where avid fans are concerned. It seems that some readers, after having read several books in an author’s series, develop certain “expectations”. And while it’s true that after reading several books in a series, a reader can, with some degree of accuracy, make predictions about the characters’ behavior or the direction of a particular plotline, it’s important to remember that no matter what, it’s still the author’s story… the author’s characters… the author’s prerogative. No matter how much time a reader has spent reading and re-reading a series of books, it’s a safe assumption that the author has spent considerably more time with those characters.
Of course, for the authors, I’m sure this is a delicate balance. I have the privilege of knowing several authors who have published books in a series, and believe me when I tell you that they want to please their readers. No author ever wants to alienate readers, but the characters an author envisions eventually take on personalities and tendencies of their own, and the author sees the logical progression of their story as only the author can.
However, I think, as readers, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that our expectations cannot trump an author’s creativity. J.R. Ward’s last two books in the Blackdagger Brotherhood series have drawn criticism from readers who didn’t like the ending, didn’t like the direction of a certain plot, did think enough time was devoted to a particular character. Suzanne Brockmann’s most recent additions to the Troubleshooters series have also come under fire from readers, some of whom have even gone so far as to accuse her of completely changing a character’s personality or trying to trick readers by eluding to a pairing of characters and then not delivering. I won’t say I haven’t been guilty of some thoughts along those lines, but I like to think that I can respect the author enough to remember that she/he is the expert when it comes to these characters… not me.
It’s important for readers to be passionate about the books they love, but it’s also important to remember that, as readers, we can’t impose our own ideas or expectations on the author. We must remember that the same creative mind that created the stories and characters that we loved in the beginning is the same mind that continues to create the subsequent stories and characters in the series. We should have faith in the author, and if we can remain loyal, even through the books we may not love, before long, there will be another story that takes our breath.
Our expectations should never stifle an author’s creativity.
That’s my opinion… what’s yours?