Perhaps because of the angry fan reactions to the end of Game of Thrones (I never saw it), Ryan Lanz has a fine post Let Your Characters Live On Without You.
“A writer actively made a choice, it was their choice to make, and there’s nothing their audience can do to change it once it’s published and out there in the world.”
This resonated with me. I have been disappointed by the endings of series, especially ones that started grandly and slowly died. Sometimes the author does better with a stand-alone or I can re-read the first book without troubling with the rest.
Worst case scenario, I avoid the author’s other works.
The real consolation is that I learn something. I can’t blame the authors who risked telling their stories! Instead, I add to a list of things I won’t do in my own writing.*
Here are some from my list, a few so old that I’ve forgotten the story that disappointed me.
- Don’t build up a girl as a strong, intelligent female and then have her take unquestioned orders from an oracle, a newly-met boy, or a stranger who says “Everything you thought was true, is a lie!” (This is a mash-up of several books.)
- Don’t make characters unconscious (sleeping, knocked out, drugged by the villain) so they miss crucial conversations or so other characters can do heavy lifting.
- Don’t make everyone love/protect your protagonist unless it’s clear WHY the protagonist is lovable/valuable to those characters.
- If the protagonist’s friend or family member is kidnapped/tortured/killed, NEVER LET THE PROTAGONIST FORGET. (Especially if it’s convenient to make the kidnapper/torturer/killer into a key ally of the protagonist!)
- If an enemy has vowed to destroy/kill the protagonist, do not use deus ex machina or a secondary character to avoid the head-to-head conflict.
- Don’t make lazy correlations as shortcuts to understanding characters; e.g. religious = fanatic, gay = artistic, old = feeble.
*Gail Carriger, author of Soulless, recently Tweeted things she was tired of in YA novels. One was the male stalker who becomes the love interest.