Back From My Self-Imposed Exile
A question for fans of UF series
Does it bug you when a UF series is open-ended and has overarching plots but no defining goal?
For example, in most series in other genres you'll have a hero with a Big Goal. Every book, he or she gets a teensy bit closer to completing their Big Goal by accomplishing necessary Small Goals. Once the Big Goal is done with the series is over.
An example would be Harry Potter: kill Voldie. Once Voldemort died the series was over.
If a series is open ended, each book is just another event in the hero's (seriously crappy) life. Something completely new drops into the hero's lap every now and again and by dealing with it, the overarching plot(s) hanging in the air get(s) developed a little. As there's no set goal, the current problem can be any issue the series' basic premise allows. I think the Dresden Files falls into this. The story can go on indefinately as long as each book answers hanging questions and raises some very good new ones.
I'd like to do the latter andI think that's how a lot of UF does it but I can't be sure because I'm only up-to-date on the Dresden Files (I've read about 2-4 books into almost twenty series. I'm currently re-attempting Magic Bites by Illona Andrews). I'm avoiding doing the former type of series because if you drag a clearly defined Big Goal out for too long some readers will get upset, but I a) don't want to be constrained by a singular series goal and b) I need the freedom of a number of books to pull off the metaplot I'm planning.
What do you think?
figuring it all out
I would say the latter is more realistic in general. Very few people have monolithic enemies to defeat/goals to meet in their lives, but everybody has a general run of never ending issues that might, in the end, culminate in something big. That said, I personally really prefer for series to be limited, otherwise they jump the shark. The Anita Blake series springs to mind as a UF series that outlived its freshness. Perhaps you could plan for a certain number of books in the series? Three or five, maybe? That way you have room to develop the plot, but also an end in mind.
I'm more into the Dresden Files model where there is no one singular plot goal for UF. The "finish the grand quest, defeat the big bad, save the world and go home after" paradigm fits more with classic fantasy in my mind - ala Lord of the Rings, Belgariad, Wheel of Time, etc.
That doesn't mean an ongoing series can't have recurring bad guys and longer overarching problems to be solved. Life is like that. But, I prefer my UF to be more episodic.
practical experience, FTW
I think the Big Over-arcing plot works well for say, trilogies.
I prefer the Dresden Files way of doing it for longer series though.