Thursday, February 5, 2015

Adventures in reading: should a series character change?

I love a good series. They're my comfort food, whether on TV or on the printed page. I already know the characters, know what story to expect... When my brain needs a break, I read/watch a series.

But sometimes, a series is just... Done. And it seems that's largely up to the writer. I recently read two 'big name' mysteries, series that had been going for a while (one was on book #30!).

One book had its detective character change, as you would expect a real person to. He was no longer the outspoken, slightly unstable hero from the beginning, but he still had a bit of rebellion at his core. This detective grew up. I liked this book a lot.

Another book had two series characters, and although the mystery was good (really good, actually), the characters were completely flat. It was like the author had decided they weren't people who could change anymore. They were just there to deliver the mystery. Disappointing, to say the least.

What do you think? Should a series character change?

Is it possible for a series to be enjoyable without character change?


  1. Fleur, I suppose if there is continuity in a series, then I wouldn't want the detective character to change. On the other hand, if it's a series where each story is different from the other, as in Poirot or Holmes, than I wouldn't mind a change provided the character has been around for a while. I'm usually not fussy about main characters.

  2. The characters have to change. They aren't people if they don't.

    I was talking with a family member about the final season of Justified (a.k.a. The Best Show on Television), and she said, "Do you think they're wrapping it up because they've run out of ideas." No, I told her. Sometimes a story just needs to end.

  3. That's an interesting view, Prashant; made me think maybe there's more of a distinction depending on the series....

    Loren: I agree--Justified is at that point where it's time to fold the tent. I'm still surprised they were able to build a series off a short story, pretty cool.

  4. I can see it working out either way. With Harry Potter, I liked seeing the characters grow up and change. With Encyclopedia Brown, I loved how static he was and the integrity he displayed in dealing with his cases.

  5. I hadn't thought of it that way, Jennifer--that it can be a benefit to have a character be static. Food for thought...

  6. Change is okay as long as it's in keeping with the overall feel of the character and it flows naturally from the events that have shaped the character's life. If a character changes suddenly and without reason, then it's just not believable.

  7. I think it can go either way and part of it depends on who the series is written for. I know that a lot of series for younger reader benefit from the character staying the same because kids don't need to read them in order, but they can keep reading about a character they like. In books for older kids and adults I think the change is needed to help the character grow because most people will read the books in order and expect the character to change at least a little over time. :)

    Interesting food for thought!

  8. Amy: so true! I've read books and seen TV shows where character actions were only there to serve the plot, and weren't 'in character' at all... So disappointing when I see that.

    Jess: I had not thought of this, kids reading a series out of order. Good point! I wonder if that kind of static character is more forgiven in kids' books. Great food for thought indeed...