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stand-alone with series potential

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Okay, so we all know that the first book in any series should be stand alone (with series potential), but how much of a resolution is necessary for a book to be stand alone?

HP and the Philosopher's Stone resolves the conflict with the secondary bad guy, but not V. but I can see why that's considered stand alone, but is the Maze Runner stand alone? Some of the kids get past the maze, but nothing else is really resolved.

I have a story with a bunch of kids who get kidnapped by aliens and taken to an Antarctic "prison". The kids are able to beat the aliens and get control of the station , but the story ends with them realizing they can't go home as it increases the risk of retaliation too much. They have to pretend the prison is still a prison.

To me, that's an ending (albeit not necessarily happy). Thoughts? Or am I being too vague?
#1 - November 07, 2019, 07:36 PM

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I think your story sounds great! I would go with it.

I also wonder if in the case of The Maze Runner, for example, if after Book 1 sold, the editor realized how much they wanted it to be a series and OK'd the ending as is, "knowing" they would offer on and buy Book 2, etc.

I also think that is why I tend to like Book 1s best. They have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Once Book 2 and 3 are contracted and written, those two often feel more like they need each other, and the plot is just being stretched out.
#2 - November 08, 2019, 04:33 AM
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It sounds good to me, Dave.  :clover
#3 - November 08, 2019, 06:06 AM
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Years ago I read a book called Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. It's been a while, so I don't remember everything, but there are two siblings in the book, a brother and a younger sister. The sister writes an ongoing poem throughout the book which reflects the family's problems in a metaphorical sort of way. At a critical point in the book when the family is in dire need of help her brother begs her to kill off or otherwise get rid of the villain in her poem. His sister bursts into tears. She says she's tried and tried to get rid of him, but he keeps coming back. She couldn't make evil disappear.

I think this is at the center of your question. The characters in your book have solved the immediate evil in their story, but a greater evil exists - one they can't get rid of. Later books may reveal how they build a life where they are, or manage to escape the continent, but the greater evil will continue to exist. It's something we all have to deal with.

I was completely satisfied with HP1, because the immediate resolution was so strong. I also didn't know there were sequels planned. It wasn't until the end of HP2 that I realized there was an ongoing story arc that covered all the books. For the first two books I thought the series was going to be episodic, but I was satisfied with each book as I read them. Even after Harry vanquishes Voldemort, you know another foe will rise, because they always do. Turns out Big V was just part of a grander scheme.

This is a long winded way of saying I think your story will fly as a stand alone as long as that immediate resolution is strong enough. Problems will always exist in our lives. You do leave the kids in a bad place, though. The pull to go home is ancient and incredibly strong. To cut them off completely is going to be a bit hard to swallow. This first book sounds like it is absolutely crying out for a sequel.

Stars Wars Episode IV is another good example of a story that could have stood alone because the vanquishing of the immediate evil was so completely satisfying, but the Empire, or Empire stand-in, always finds a way back.



#4 - November 08, 2019, 08:28 AM

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It sounds like a good ending to me. Not everything needs to be tied up neatly and HEA for the novel to be a good stand alone.
#5 - November 08, 2019, 03:32 PM
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I'm agreeing with everyone else. But consider having them be able to get in touch with home and make sure the reader isn't left worrying about them dying in the cold. Supplies and survival skills are a must. If I think they're just going to die out there, you haven't really resolved the story.
#6 - November 08, 2019, 08:46 PM
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But consider having them be able to get in touch with home and make sure the reader isn't left worrying about them dying in the cold. Supplies and survival skills are a must. If I think they're just going to die out there, you haven't really resolved the story.

They can't get in touch with home, but they do have supplies and have no risk of imminent harm.
#7 - November 09, 2019, 07:22 AM

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