The serialized story has a much greater capacity to impact us emotionally, most specifically as it concerns our relationship with the characters. Reader-to-character relationships reflect real-life relationships most directly in a series for a number of reasons. Because real-life relationships require time. They require investment. They require faithfulness.
Standalone novels can impact us similarly, no doubt. But there’s something about serialized fiction that bonds us to characters more effectively–and leaves a deeper scar when the series ends. Anyone who has read Harry Potter has certainly experienced this. Other beloved series like The Chronicles of Narnia or Percy Jackson can make us feel loss or a sense of bereavement once we’ve reached the end.
You can learn a lot from a good standalone novel–usually there’s a point that gets driven home, and your relationship to the characters might only be a means to an end, not an end in itself. But the opposite can start to hold true whether you like it or not when reading a series–your relationship with the characters suddenly starts to matter. You start to care.
The moment after you’ve read something, it becomes something of the past. The moment after you’ve spoken to or encountered someone in real-life, they become something in your past. What makes the difference between a friend you used to know and someone who is still your friend is the continuous relationship or dialogue that you maintain. It’s the same thing with characters who are a part of a series. The relationship suddenly seems real when you know that the adventure goes on, the experiences continue, the dialogue doesn’t stop. Standalones can’t accomplish this–only series can.
This is why we need series. They teach us something about relationships and about life–not by what they say, but by their very form. We become more human when we read a series and encounter the thoughts, words, and actions of a character consistently; the exercise trains us to be present to the people around us diligently. After all, we don’t want to live our lives a standalone novel–we don’t want to experience people and then have them be nothing more but a shadow from our past. We want the story to go on. We want the relationships to continue. Relationships are not a means to an end, but ends in and of themselves.
Try getting all that out of a standalone.
What do you think?