Blogger ate this post last week, so let's try this again.
Okay, sequel bait. I've heard this term used often lately. My knee-jerk response is--I don't like it. I love to read series. I love to read long series. That can't happen organically unless we're introduced to characters along the way. But I realize that readers and authors hear that phrase and it brings to mind several different things.
So the reason why it bothers me might not ping on anyone else's radar. Or at least not for the same reasons.
I'll give you a perfect example. In Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series, readers (me!) have waited years to read Hawke and Sienna's story (Kiss of Snow). From the earliest snippets of them together, it was obvious they would be a couple...eventually.
Two words: sweet anticipation.
I love falling into a world and falling in love with characters. *happy sigh*
Anyway, moving on. I read a blog post by another author on this very same topic. Her take was much different than mine, and I though, interesting. She views sequel bait as secondaries who steal the show. Not just fodder for sequels, but minor characters who outshine the hero and heroine of the current book.
I can see how that would be annoying, but it's easy to let it happen. The h/h have a burden to carry. The secondaries? Not so much. They're support, and they can have moments of snappy dialogue or heroic actions or stupid actions that have consequences too severe for the h/h.
I'll also admit, there's a right way and a wrong way to handle lining up your potential future heroes. Is it safe to assume if your h or h has a sibling, that sibling will get a book? Yeah, it is. It makes sense in most cases and naturally stems from events set into action in the previous book. I like sibling stories. I must. I keep on writing them. ;)
Even friends work for me. I think the key word is "organic". When a book that's been only the h/h ends with a SWAT team full of hunks swarming a room with a twinkle in their eye, yeah, that doesn't work so well for me. And in case that's misconstrued as a potshot taken against contemporaries, the same goes for werewolf packs. Either scenario can work, but it's all in the execution.
I'd like for those SWAT or werewolf hunks to be a part of the story. Don't just drop them in at the end as a tease. Let them be involved, at least peripherally. Give them purpose outside of Possible Future Hero. Help them avoid the sequel bait title by making them contribute to the story. So when they pop up in the next book, your readers will think--"Hey, I remember you. You did something cool in the last book. Wonder what you'll do this time around?"
I view reading series as making friends along the way. I need to care about the h/h. Something they did in the previous book must cement at least a second's worth of "oh, I'd like to know more about them" for me to be properly invested when the next book is released. That's probably why I don't read stand alone novels. I'm not invested. Once I become invested, it's over and I know there isn't going to be any more. That's kind of...disappointing. :(
So what do y'all think? Is there a right way and a wrong way for highlighting your series's next hero or heroine? Do you prefer reading series? Or are you a one at the time kind of reader? (Nothing wrong with that.)