A fascinating and utterly annoy trend I have recently noticed in books, and in fairness, movies, is the propensity to split up complete stories into multiple segments. The most recent and popular results of this fetish are the finales of the Harry Potter and Twilight series, respectively having their final novels split in two for cash grabs, because, let’s be honest, there’s not enough plot in either book to make the argument for splitting these books up. Definitely the same argument for the Hobbit.
That said, I’m supposed to be discussing books and writing, so it all goes hand in hand. As it pertains to the “Star Trek – the Fall” event series I’m reading currently (a review of the first book will be posted on Saturday) this habit appears as the story is broken into five books. Other notable offenders are “the Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan, Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel (SotINF), and, well, most of the Star Trek event books since the Relaunch.
My main problem with splitting stories is this: when I buy a book or see a movie, I want a complete story. I shouldn’t have to get to the end of something, only to see a “to be continued…” pop up at the end. (Television series are different. They need to grab viewers and make sure they come back, because it’s a continuing structure) One of the complaints I’ve heard from my friends who read A Song of Ice and Fire (and one of the main reasons I refuse to read that series until it’s finished) is that it is one big tale with the books designated as seemingly random breaks.
Books should be different. These aren’t the serial series of comics or magazines. Seriously, I’m not sure any one can legitimately argue that books 6-9 or 12-14 of the Wheel of Time series weren’t just one story arc almost arbitrarily cut off. The SotINF was six separate books that joined together, told one story. These aren’t arcs, with a beginning or an end, just the ends of chapters. And that’s not fair to the readers who expect, at the very least, a complete story.
Setting up plot elements for another book is a completely different task. In Harry Potter, the seven books each have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They bring resolution to each set of conflicts inherent to that particular book, even as the over arching story of Harry vs Voldemort continues.