if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

On The Bubble

There’s a phrase that’s common in the tv world, describing that nether-world between when a series has been cancelled or renewed: On the bubble. I thought of it last night watching the season finale of Community, which I love (six seasons and a movie!), but which I couldn’t help but notice was framed well for cancellation. Just in case.

Now, there is a happy ending — Community is coming back next year, at least for 13 episodes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a season finale that neatly tied up so many plot lines, taking our favorite characters somewhere we wanted to see them go, even if there wasn’t a “happily ever after” moment.

And because it’s what I do, I couldn’t help but think about books. Specifically, about book series.

In advising writers how to frame their queries, we agents always tell you to pitch one book, not a series. But we KNOW you very often do see sequels and more when you’re framing out a story. So the thing to be aware of, if you want to do that, is that you do have to give your readers (or viewers) a sense of closure. You have to give them some sort of conclusion in book one that feels satisfying, even if you’re not tying everything up in a neat little bow.

So maybe that’s getting your two romantic leads happily together, while still leaving the big bad out there menacing places unknown, or giving the kid who never had any friends before a bunch of them to work with to destroy the evil corporation, and hope maybe love comes in book two. Your call.

What you DON’T want to do, though, is leave a giant cliffhanger ending dangling. Take a show like Alcatraz, with giant mysteries like time travel and weird blood and stuff. They asked so many questions in the first season, and answered so few, that they left even their interested fans (who dwindled in number each week) completely unsatisfied. Don’t do that.

(The only time you can sometimes get away with a cliffhanger is in an established series that you know has been picked up, or where the creator has one more big season planned before the ultimate finale. I’m thinking of shows like Lost, or in books like Catching Fire. But even then, haters will hate.)

Does that makes sense? And what are some of your favorite season finales?


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