Discussion: Why Series Work Better in Some Genres Than Others

Hey everyone! This week’s discussion topic is about I trend I’ve noticed recently with books and series. I’ve noticed that some genres, such as fantasy, science fiction, and dystopian, tend to contain more series while some, like contemporary and romance, tend to be more standalone books. I’m going to discuss my ideas on why I think certain genres lend themselves to series better than others, and give recommendations of both a series in that genre and a standalone.

Also, these are just about the genres I normally read so I know more about. For example, I don’t read much mystery or thriller books, so I can’t discuss whether they work better in series or standalone and what they usually come in because I don’t know much about them.

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From my experience, I’ve noticed three genres that tend to be more series.

  • Fantasy/Paranormal
    • Harry Potter
    • Twilight
    • Percy Jackson and the Olympians
    • The Lord of the Rings
  • Science Fiction
    • The StarboundTrilogy
    • The Firebird Trilogy
    • Maximum Ride Series
  • Dystopian/Futuristic
    • The Hunger Games
    • Divergent
    • Legend

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I think the main reason why the above genres lend themselves better to series is because there is more world building. In each of the above genres, the author creates their own world full of complex problems, and a good SFF or Dystopian book creates a world that feels as realistic as ours does. I mean, think of how complex the Harry Potter world is or the Grisha Universe. If these books were in standalone format, then there would be a ton of info-dumping, or underdeveloped worlds.

I also think the plot lines of these books work better in series books. Usually there is some sort of large, overarching problem, but then a lot of mini problems that both keep the plot moving, develop the larger problem, and allow the characters to develop. if it was a standalone, the plot would either feel very very rushed and underdeveloped, or the book would be 800 pages long. There is also the problem that without a series, you wouldn’t care about what was happening as much because it wouldn’t be rich enough and realistic enough to you. This kind of ties back with world building, but you would probably care less about a couple teens overthrowing a government structure if you didn’t know the ins and outs of the government and who the teens were and the struggles they faced, etc. You wouldn’t be invested enough. 

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Again, from my experience, I’ve noticed two genres that primarily tend to be standalones.

  • Contemporary
    • I’ll Give You The Sun
    • The Hate U Give
    • All the Bright Places
  • Romance
    • Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour
    • When We Collided
    • Alex, Approximately

The one thing I will say about these two genres is that in addition to standalones, they tend to have a lot of overlapping stories. Think Anna and the French Kiss series or the Pushing the Limits series. These are series, but different than the series mentioned above. There are the same characters, with some serving as secondary characters and then getting their time to shine, and in the same setting, but can work as standalones because there isn’t one overarching problem that needs to be followed chronologically. It’s particular popular in the romance genre because each little friend group gets to have multiple happily ever afters and the author can keep the characters alive.

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I think the main reason is that both contemporary and romance books focus on one pivotal moment in the character’s life, and the before and after so we can see how this event changes them. Whether it’s falling in love like in romance books or another life changing event, it’s hard to drag it out into multiple books. Both these genres are more like short glimpses into the characters’ lives, as opposed to a giant plot line that leaves the world forever changed like in the genres that support series better.

Also, most contemporary and romance books don’t need the world building– the explanation of culture and politics and how it came to be- because it is our world. We know the background of the world the characters are living in, so a lot of explanations and explorations necessary in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Dystopian are cut out, leaving a shorter book and allowing the author to jump right into the story.

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Well, maybe not exceptions, because this isn’t really a rule I presented, but the books that don’t fall into the patterns I’ve described above. Because, of course, authors are creative and can do what they want !!! They don’t need to follow any customs if they don’t want to !!! They are independent (wo)men who don’t need anybody !!!

  • Fantasy/Paranormal Standalones
    • The Hobbit
    • The Night Circus
  • Science Fiction Standalones
    • 1984
  • Dystopian Standalones
    • Ummmmm
    • Idk
  • Contemporary Series
    • The Raven Cycle (is this even contemporary)
  • Romance Series
    • Effortless With You series

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And now onto the discussion part! Do you think my observations are accurate? Why do you think certain genres support series better than others, and what genres do you think have more series in them? Do you have more examples of the “exceptions”, for lack of a better word?

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18 thoughts on “Discussion: Why Series Work Better in Some Genres Than Others

  1. Analee @ Book Snacks says:

    Oh, I totally agree with this discussion!! I definitely see fantasy/scifi/dystopian books more often in series, and I totally agree that they often work best that way! There is just so much world building and ideas to explore, that I think would be lacking if it were a stand alone. Then again, The Night Circus is a stand alone and that one did a pretty good job ahah. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is SUCH A GREAT SERIES AH. One of the few contemporary series I’ve read, and Jenny Han just made it so perfect???! ❤ Anyway. Lovely discussion Sydney!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie says:

    Thi is SUCH an interesting post, thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂 I agree that some worlds definitely need more explorations, and dystopian / fantasies are sometimes so complex, they could never work as standalones….well, they could, but there would be a whole lot of info dumping and it wouldn’t be too good, I think 🙂
    On the contrary, some contemporaries would just drag on and on if they were series. Some authors do get away with it greatly, though, such as with the Lara Jean series: I thought the author managed to write an amazing last book to the series 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sydney @ Fire and Rain Books says:

      Thank you!! Yes, I rarely ever see dystopian and fantasy standalones because the world building is too much. And I’ve read some contemporary series and the characters just get dry if not done right. Jenny Han does an amazing job though so go her! I love the third book of Lara Jean’s series.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mikaela @ The Well-Thumbed Reader says:

    Yeah, I think I definitely prefer fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian series! I have read some romance series, but those are mainly just the ones where each character gets their own love interest in a different book, which I think I find more entertaining than following one character! I think a large majority of the time, I feel like most contemporaries wrap up their books or have a good enough ending that I don’t really NEED more. And I also can’t finish series for my life, so I don’t need more. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sydney @ Fire and Rain Books says:

      Me too! As much as I LOVE contemporaries, their series kinda drag on. I mean, you have to really LOVE the characters for a contemporary serie to work because there isn’t usually much plot holding it all together. I’ve read a lot of those romance series, which I enjoy, but definitely not more than fantasy/sci fi/dystopian series because the previously established relationships often turn very underdeveloped and the couple almost merges into one person? which is just bleh.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bridget says:

    All great points! Though I would still kind of lump The Hobbit as part of a series – even though it technically isn’t?? – just because it’s still set in Middle Earth. But you made a great point about pivotal, life-changing moment vs. having to describe a fantasy world and going on a magical journey. I’ve never read a Contemporary series and didn’t even realize those existed?? lol so you definitely opened my eyes with this post! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jane tims says:

    I agree that science fiction lends itself well to series. I think it has to do with world-building. Once a writer/reader has embraced an alien world, they want to know more. And if alien worlds are like real worlds, there is a lot to learn!

    Liked by 1 person

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