(No spoilers this time. At least, I’m pretty sure. Proceed with caution just in case.)
You know, I find myself growing weary of the series. Specifically, I think I’m worn out on epics, where the author takes hundreds of thousands of words to tell a single story. The more I study the craft, the more I feel that telling a complex story in a shorter framework demonstrates a higher level of skill. I think I’ve just read too many stories relentlessly padded into trilogies because trilogies are cool, too many first volumes that feel like barely a first act, too many books that read like game manuals with only the most tacit of nods toward structure and plot. Perhaps my attention span has just been rotted by social media, but I find that I’m just not willing to commit to half a million words of my life just to see if there’s a point to all of this.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. For my money, a perfect series is one where the individual books still feel like books in their own right; not necessarily something I could pick up cold or out of order and have it make sense, but something that gives me the same sense of satisfaction as a standalone book. This is probably easiest to pull off in an episodic property like Artemis Fowl. Each installment of that series is a contained caper: someone makes a nefarious plan, geniuses try to outmaneuver each other, and everything gets wrapped up by the end. They’re not completely interchangeable, because continuity carries over, the fallout of major events gets explored, and characters develop and change. But the overall arc is one of character rather than plot, charting Artemis’s development from devious child to responsible young adult.
You know, scene changes are kind of weird if you think about it. Most stories don’t lend themselves to a contiguous telling, because there’s all sorts of little details that would drag the story down if dwelt on. So the story just stops and skips ahead to something more interesting, and as a reader or viewer we absorb this and go with it. It’s just not something we really tend to think about, although perhaps we should.
The Avengers features a few rather clever transitions worth examining. First, we have Fury talking to the World Security Council:
SHADOWY DUDE: War isn’t won by sentiment.
FURY: No. It’s won by soldiers.
I am a weird person who needs noise to go to sleep–and not just a fan or some light instrumentals. Yup, I turn on Netflix to help me sleep, because my stupid ADD brain needs something to focus on or I’ll keep myself up all night. This means that I tend to watch certain movies dozens and dozens of times, and as such, you begin to notice a few things. (Indeed, most of my recent sleepy-time rotation will be making an appearance this month.) The Rocketeer was one of my favorite movies growing up, although I was never a big fan of the love interest, Jenny Blake, who always seemed kind of like a sexy lamp to me. (If you didn’t follow the link, the “sexy lamp” test means that if you could replace your main female character with a sexy lamp and the story would still basically work, you have a problem.) But the more I try to pin it down, the more I think it’s not that simple. She may not be your standard strong female character (a nebulous phrase my loathing of which is well-established), but if you were to remove Jenny from the story, it wouldn’t just be different–it wouldn’t exist at all.