The Unspoken Agreement

I have always felt there was an unspoken agreement between an author and us readers when we purchase a book and frankly lately I think the rules have been out the window. So I’m curious, is it just me that feels this way, having these expectations of my writers? Do I need to adjust to a new way of writing? Or are some books just not playing by the rules? Allow me to explain.

When I buy a book it’s like the author and I have made a contract. A simple one, I will give money to your seller and you will deliver a story. I don’t have to like it but it must follow the guidelines of all stories. Sound simple? Apparently not. This is how I view a story: A beginning, if it’s the first time we are meeting everyone with character and world building when appropriate. Then a middle, this is where your plot comes to life, the climax of the story as it is, whether it’s bad guys seemingly defeating good guys, or a big fight, big reveals, this is when we get the meat of the story. The all important end, the big finish, where you frankly actually finish the book. No cliffhangers (I will discuss this), no unrelated twists, just bring it home. Make it complete.

What I feel like has been a trend in some writing lately…

The Cliffhanger. Why do authors do this? Especially with book one? I have yet to meet a reader that loves this, so why do it? Is it because you just couldn’t think of an ending? Is it because you want me to be forced to buy your next book (doesn’t work with me, you cliff hang I abandon)? Or is it because you knew from the beginning that you would write three books so it doesn’t matter to you? Well that sucks. Let me tell you there are many extremely successful series out there that have 8,10,20 books and you know what, no cliffhangers! Every book is a complete story by itself. We feel satisfied when we read it, like an episode on tv.

The Plot. Ever read the back of a book, then read the book and the blurb has nothing to do with the story? I bought the book because this is what you told me the story is about. Can’t always blame the publisher, indies are also committing this crime, it’s kind of like false advertising. See this whale??? Sorry we are sending you home with a guppy. I might have been interested in your original story, I like guppies, but it’s just not going to sit right with me the whole time cause all I can think about is that whale. Blurbs should match the story and the plot should follow that. Having a plot is good too, some now don’t even have a plot.

The beginning. World and character building are paramount. In fact too often characters are left with no personality, shallow as it were, and books can fall very flat. But some authors swing too far the other way making whole books out of world and character building. That’s great if I already have book 2 and 3 but if this is all I have, then I don’t have a story, just a really long resume. And 200 pages of that gets boring. I know a lot of authors say they are setting up the next book, but I’m not buying, you got to sell this book to me, not the next one.

So the big question is, are my expectations to great?

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18 thoughts on “The Unspoken Agreement

  1. I think you know my feelings on this. Considering I ranted about non endings and sequel baiting. But I agree, too many authors now just seem to assume that yes I will read their whole planned trilogy so obviously the first two books don’t need endings because the 3rd is gonna be the real ending!

    I cant stand ANY medium that does this. Video games, TV, movies. Books. Its all becoming this way. Sequelitis is something I have heard a few times. That assumption that you are going to want to read every book because darnit its just that good.

    I am looking at you Banished of Muirwood.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I was so happy that the Dresden Files doesn’t do that. Or Mistborn. Percy Jackson does the cliffhangers but at the same time the story in each book wraps up IN that book. I don’t mind cliffhangers in that regard, where there are hints of whats to come BUT the story of that book is told in that book.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Yes that’s why writers like Jim Butcher have successful long running series, he always gives complete stories. And I know what your saying with the Percy Jackson thing, he does the whole open ended question thing but that’s after we have the satisfaction of a complete adventure so it doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger, right? Maybe I’m more forgiving if I like your books….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you have raised some very valid points and I agree. When it takes now a year between books (a personal pet peeve of mine if the reason is because the author has multiple series going), a cliffhanger is enough to want me to stop reading.

    If a series is going to be spread out over a multitude of books, then I can deal with not all aspects of the story being completed in each book–I mean, somethings in the world building just will necessarily take the series to wrap up, but the storyline of each individual book needs to be completed. Really, the authors can give us something!! I agree–I think this is one reason why Jim Butcher is so successful with the Harry Dresden series. Long Live Harry!

    I love series but have several gripes myself when it comes to long-running series.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Kar,

    Thank you so much for this posting. I run a writers group at http://AgileWriters.org and so many beginning writers commit the crimes you write about. They think in terms of series of books and believe that leaving the reader dangling at the end of book one will entice them to read book two. I have to explain that no, you’ll just piss the reader off and they’ll never read another of your works. That is essentially breaking the contract with the reader.

    Great blog. Continued Success!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh yes, this, so much this. See as a writer I leaped into writing with the intention of having a huge robust universe. I want to write many many books in this universe. However, what I do not want to do is end each book with a cliffhanger and leave the reader feeling like they can’t start anywhere and must absolutely start with BOOK 1 OF SERIES BLAH BLAH. So in this vein, I wholly agree with the contract between reader and writer. I’ll keep my end of the deal and give a full story in a single book, but don’t expect those characters to disappear from the universe.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Although I appreciate it when someone likes my blog, I am so busy just trying to read books to blog about, that I rarely have a chance to visit and read someone who liked me. In this case, I am so glad I did as I really enjoyed this post and picturing you shaking a finger at these authors who are breaking the ‘rules’! It made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is why I tend to avoid trilogies (probably missing out on great ones)… to the point I tend to be surprised when I read a trilogy starter that resolves so much plot. (The Drafter and Hard Magic come to mind recently).

    Liked by 1 person

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