Hello! Today I'm super excited to be doing a joint discussion with Becca of The Library Canary. Becca is a really awesome blogger who leaves awesome, insightful comments and writes some of the best discussion posts I've read. So, today we're going to be sharing our thoughts with you on:
What makes a good standalone?
I definitely agree that there's a shortage of standalones in genres other than contemporary. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is one that I had actually been thinking of as well, since I'm typically a reader of paranormal/supernatural. Personally, I've enjoyed quite a few standalones, but I do agree that there are flaws that many stumble into. Also, there's the idea of standalones that are part of the same universe in a series, which is another thing I think is common in contemporaries as well.
The main issue in paranormal and supernatural books is world building. You have to create anything from a super power to a world with its own completely new set of rules in a limited page count in addition to everything else that happens in a book like character development, conflict, etc. In contemporaries the author is able to navigate a realistic world and focus more on the story and characters.
Contemporaries in general seem to focus more on the principle character and the love interest and their romance. This, in general, is why I'm normally not the biggest contemporary reader. I tend to like reading about more characters and supernatural goings-on. I hadn't thought of it, but it is true that there are physical characteristics that need to be developed and reiterated in a paranormal in order to help develop the character. For example, what if we only had one book to learn about Karou from Daughter of Smoke & Bone and her peacock blue hair and hamsas? That would have taken away from the idea of how she got that blue hair and why she has those tattoos on her hand. And that's only the beginning, as Rebecca says. There is no set rule for how things operate in a paranormal world, that is completely up to the author. And within the limits of one book, that can mean that other elements of the story have to be pushed back to compensate for the neccessary world building. Even then, there's still the chance of having infodump and the world building overtaking the story entirely.
Also adding on to what Rebecca said about connecting to the characters in standalones, this is something that can be problematic. I've seen it happen in contemporaries and paranormal standalones alike.
The pacing of the story. This is something that can work for or against the standalone. Sometimes in series you run the risk of the story dragging in a particular book because the overarching plotline needs to develop, or for whatever reason. That's definitely not the case in a standalone, where the only plot is happening in that particular book, but then there can still be problems.
Endings in general are so difficult! Even as a reviewer, reading the end of a series or standalone is something that really is different for everyone. I dislike every issue and qualm the character had being solved and wrapped up in a bow, and I see that in a lot of contemporaries, yet I typically dislike really open endings as well. There's a balance that has to be maintained, and in a standalone where we've only had a couple hundred pages to be introduced to everyone and everything, it can be hard to maintain that balance.
I absolutely love Rebecca's point about every book being somewhat of a standalone. No one likes the "sophomore slump" or when a book drags in the name of the overarching story. And for standalones, there's a lot to consider in a limited amount of pages. What does make a good book, and where do we find the balance between world, characters, plot, and pages?
So, there is my part of our discussion, be sure to check out Rebecca's, and her wonderful blog as well!
From the paper world,