Reflection: Stand-Alone and Series Stories

So, last Saturday (darn internet failures), I posted a short story called Invincible, a story I had originally planned as an Evaira story (if you haven’t read it yet, here it is).  If you are not familiar with Evaira, I have already posted a number of stories in that series here.  You really should start reading them.

This is because I find that some stories are better as stand-alone stories, to be read by themselves, while others work best as part of a series.  It really all depends on the type of story.

For example, think of your typical murder mystery story.  Typically, in this genre, the detective trying to solve the murder is the main protagonist.  However, the story is really about the murderer and the victim, mainly, what led the murderer to kill his victim.  The detective is simply a character trying to learn that story.

This is why detective stories work so well as a series; you can’t really get to know the detective as a character that well from a single story.  By using the detective for multiple stories, the reader can get to know them more and more over time, and they become easier characters to investigate.

In order to determine if a story is good for Evaira, essentially a supernatural detective series, or good as part of a series in general, I think of several factors:

First, I think like the mysteries: who is the story really about: the main character or somebody else?  Evaira’s The Devil’s Road Phenomenon (read it here) was really a story about Kelly, which Evaira and her friends were just learning and discovering through their interactions with her.  But I also have to think who the protagonist is.  I can write “The Devil’s Road Phenomenon” from Kelly’s perspective too, if I wanted.  It would be a different story, though.

Second, I think about the permanence of what happens.  How severely does it impact the characters?  Now, characters grow and change, so some events having a permanent effect on the characters is good, adds life to the story.  But sometimes, the implications of a particular story could have serious consequences that could affect my ability to revisit that series later – I shouldn’t kill my detective if they might have more mysteries to solve.

Third, I think of how tightly the story fits with the series.  Will the story even work as a stand-alone story?  Evaira stories closely related to the Liza mystery may not work that well outside of the context of the series.  On the other hand, it could not fit in at all, and contradict things I wrote before.  In a series, continuity is important, so I have to respect it.

Now, it’s not always set completely in stone.  Sometimes, the story is about the detective.  If his wife was murdered, the case becomes a lot more personal to him, and his involvement in the real story is much greater.  Or maybe I want to develop the characters in a specific way, so I write a story mostly about the established characters to help develop them, where the mystery is a bit less important.

As an aside, I am largely using the detective as an analogy.  There are many types of stories that aren’t mystery-related that will fall into this category.  Think of adventure towns type stories (obligatory link to TV tropes for explanation here), though Evaira very much falls into that genre too.  There are many other genres that are built to be series like this, but I think the same rules would apply.  If you think of anything I might have missed, please let me know in the comments.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get started on my next reflection post.  After all these power and internet outages, I have learned the importance of having a bigger buffer set up.

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