I love my post titles these days. It's as if my brain has decided that I need to cram every specific thing into them so I don't start meandering. As if I don't stay on topic or something. Pfft to my brain.
Most of you know I'm a die-hard Jack Bauer fan. It doesn't matter that the show has gotten a bit ridiculous (a bit? A BIT the size of India's population?!) but I still love him with the adoring love of a thousand almond creme cheese cake. It's not Jack Bauer that's gone wrong, you see. It's the writers for that show. He'd always be brilliant, angsty, crazy-tunnel vision, alpha, and overly efficient at killing people.
I started to wonder whether I feel the same about books that are series that follow a single/multiple characters? That I loved a character but hated the way the storyline went as the books continued? Loved the tone of the books, loved the voice, loved the characters, but somehow, when the series was done, I'm sort of relieved, not because my character's journey brought me great joy but that it was so heavy on a certain aspect of that it dragged my enjoyment down? Danny Valentine, your inability to give your lover a chance and your doubts really really REALLY ended that series by making me think you were wrong and stupid. And who wanted to end up with that opinion about the main character?
Or the series have gone so far off course that there is no recognizable thing between Book 1 and Book 111, except for the characters' names? Especially if it sort of changed genres in the middle too. Anita Blake, I'm looking at you.
Some people would read on to the bitter end, but I can't do that. I didn't do that to LOST, the TV series, because there were too many characters with too many storylines and not one solved mystery after two seasons. I couldn't do that with Anita Blake because the characters I've emotionally invested in changed into unrecognizable entities.
And yet, I hung on to Jack Bauer, season after season. There are plot holes galore in each season, with things happening that couldn't happen in the real world and in real time. 24 is called that because it follows an adventure through the course of a day, using a digital clock at the corner of the TV screen. It's a season-long fake reality show of following a CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) operative as he goes around the a metropolis destroying lots of things and causing havoc while chasing terrorists with accents bent on destroying that city (and the U.S.).
There are nuclear blasts that don't affect Jack's health. Hell, Jack gets shot and he walks and talks in the next hour as if it were just a flesh wound. There are water passageways that lead under the White House. There are non-existent car tunnels in New York City by named streets. There are resurrected characters who were good guys one season and now turned bad, and no, they aren't zombies. And there's always a mole inside CTU that shows how stupid and incapable CTU is.
A book with a plot like the above would have been thrown across the room many a time. And yet, every Monday for the last eight or nine years (with the exception of personal stuff), I've turned on the show and cheered Jack Bauer on, as he continued his fight to "save the world," as we fans like to say.
So my conclusion is that it must be the character. I couldn't take Danny Valentine any more as she changed into a morose and doubting heroine who seemed to side with her enemies more than her lover. I couldn't take Anita Blake any more as she metamorphosized from Vampire Hunter to...umm...Monster Mistress (couldn't come up with a better name) and destroyed the special triangle of metaphysical power that was set up in the first ten books. I couldn't follow Lost when The Others become the focus, and not the core group of survivors.
Don't get me wrong. These books and shows are very good and have mega fans. I'm just picking them as examples of how I, the reader, reach a point where they don't fit me any more. Many people, on the other hand, have stopped watching 24. So it's all about what floats your boat.
I do have series that I've read/enjoyed and put away with a happy sigh when they're done and reread and rewatched through the years. Some that I'm reading now tthat I look forward to the next book:
1) Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series
2) Briggs' Alpha and Omega series
3) Andrews' Kate Daniel series
4) Robb's Eve Dallas (although I'm books behind on this one but this is one series always satisfies me)
As you can see, the examples are mostly urban fantasies. I can't think of a historical series that I'm reading. Brockmann's Team 16 books have character arcs that move the series along and her most famous one was Sam and Alyssa's storyline, which I followed along until the part where Sam was tricked by a turkey baster and in subsequent books, cried buckets and became a drunk. I did read his happy ending with Alyssa a few books later, though, so it's possible to skip parts of a series you don't like and just read the ending ;-).
TV shows: Babylon 5 comes to mind. A brilliant, brilliant five year-arc that had me riveted till today. Every SF show since pales in comparison. Except maybe La Femme Nikita, but it wasn't SF and its ending was an abomination. I did follow Alias and X-Files to the bitter, bitter, incomprehensible end, and maybe that's why I avoid JJ Abrams, who also produces/writes Lost, now. I just don't trust him any more.
The latest TV show that riveted me was Dollhouse and despite its flaws, its storyline was tantalizing and my Whedon love knows no bound, even though his endings never make me happy.
So. I'm thinking that my rules with character arcs are funky. You can write stupid but don't make the protagonist turn stupid. You can have plot holes, but make sure he doesn't make a 180 and turn into something he isn't (except for one episode, by magic, and resolved very soon!) Most of all, don't set me up with a promise that so and so will end up together and then end the series with them getting on with Other Loves. That is like turning Jack Bauer into a coward and have him save himself over others at the end of the show (please, TV gods, don't give the writers of 24 this idea because they'll think they're being damn clever and every fan will hunt them down and shoot their thighs).
What series, books or TV show, are you following? Are you happy with how it's going? And has there been a series that you've dropped because you just couldn't take it any more? Was it the plot or character?
Lots of questions, I know, but I'm always curious about my readers' internal rules about story-telling.
Also, who's going to save the world now that Jack Bauer is going off the air? Sob*
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