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Endings

November 20, 2007

The last novel in the “Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind, “Confessor”, arrived on Saturday to the Gilbert household.  Both my wife and I are avid fans, and have been anxiously awaiting this one.  When my wife unwrapped it, and set it on the kitchen table, I jokingly threw out the question “So, would you be angry if I jumped to the last page of the book?” to which my wife replied, “Don’t you dare!”

“But dear, I wouldn’t tell YOU what it said!”

“I don’t care, I’d still pummel you!”

As it turns out, several of the series that my wife and I follow have been coming to their respective ends over the last couple of years: Rowling with “Harry Potter”, Herbert and Anderson with “Dune”, and now Goodkind.  A closed series brings with it a certain responsibility to tie off the loose ends, and it also implies that there are a finite number of books in which to address those loose ends.  Even then, I’ve found you have some wiggle room.

For example, at one extreme, Rowling set out to write 7 books, one for every year that Harry was to have been in school at Hogwarts.  The story line demanded that limitation.

At the other extreme, Goodkind set out to write a story, specifically that of Richard and Kahlan.  He’s said (in as many words) that when he started he didn’t know how many books it would take him to tell that whole story.  As a result he gave himself a lot more flexibility with the overall arch by not putting an artificial cap on the series.

Somewhere in the middle of these two, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and of course the late Frank Herbert, also had a story to tell, but there seemed to be some firmer requirements in place for it.  Frank wrote 6 books in the series, and envisioned a seventh before his death.  His son, Brian, along with Anderson, wrote the 6 prequels in the form of 2 trilogies.  Unless you’re Douglas Adams, “trilogy” means a hard and fast “3”.  They also wrote “Book 7”, which is to come after Frank’s original 6 in the story timeline, and complete the series.  “Book 7”, though actually ended up being released in two parts (the second this past August).

So what’s the point?  I have ideas for future stories beyond the one that I’m writing – set in the same world, with the same characters.  What I haven’t decided yet is whether this will be an open or closed series.  I certainly don’t have a general story arch planned out like the above authors right now, so I’m leaning toward an open-ended series.  Many of my characters are young (mid to late teens), so having an open-ended series gives me the opportunity to explore their world, and see them mature and grow – without an end looming.  Perhaps I’ll get 4, 5, or 6 books into it, and see that I have been working towards an end after all.

I can’t dwell on that thought for too long, though.  Right now, I’m finding it a challenge just to get to the end of Chapter 3.

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