It’s been a long time since I wrapped up a series--2011’s The Dark Tide, to be precise--but I’m currently writing the final book in the All’s Fair series and I’m daily reminded of just how tricky it is to pen that final chapter.
Of course, some readers don’t care about the character arc--they don’t want the adventure to ever end, period. And, as much as we love those readers, we have to ignore them because every story ultimately comes to an end. It’s better to end on a high note than a death bed (be it ours or the characters’).
But delivering that emotional payoff depends on the particular character and their unique journey.
In Fair Game, the first book of the trilogy, Elliot Mills is a former FBI agent who has been sidelined by a serious injury.
A crippling knee injury forced Elliot Mills to trade in his FBI badge for dusty chalkboards and bored college students. Now a history professor at
former agent has put his old life behind him -- but it seems his old life isn't
finished with him. Puget Sound
A young man has gone missing from campus -- and as a favor to a family friend, Elliot agrees to do a little sniffing around. His investigations bring him face-to-face with his former lover, Tucker Lance, the special agent handling the case.
At the end of the book, Elliot has made peace with his choices and settled down to a life in academia and a new relationship with Tucker. That should not come as a surprise to anyone, this being genre fiction.
However, it’s a series so…Elliot has to believably get involved in another investigation without reversing the progress achieved in the first book. And because these books are M/M romance, there has to be believable conflict and strain between Elliot and Tucker--again without manufacturing some artificial drama that will only irritate readers.
This is where that extended cast of characters every series needs becomes invaluable.
Setting up house with his new lover was tricky before arson landed his former radical father in the guest bedroom. Now ex-FBI agent Elliot Mills has to figure out who is willing to kill to keep Roland's memoirs from being published.
All’s well that ends well in Fair Play. Or close enough. Elliot and Tucker are still alive and still in love.
But now we come to the third and final installment and all the loose threads of the first two books have to be woven into this final tapestry. The story needs to come full circle--without actually going in circles. That means shaking up some expectations. Maybe even my own!
The basic premise of Fair Chance:
This is the book where every choice Elliot has previously made comes up for reevaluation and where everything he holds dears is on the line. This book has to be the payoff book for fans of the series--while still being involving and interesting to those readers coming in on the final installment (it’s surprising how many readers jump in any old where in a series).
While I know what I think readers will be looking for in this final book, I’m always surprised to hear the little things readers are hoping to find. That’s where the pressure comes in. This is it. If I fail to deliver, there’s no do-over in the next book. Elliot’s life will go on (OR WILL IT??!!) but we will not be peeking through that particular keyhole anymore.
So while I'd love to hear from my fellow writers on the challenges of winding up a series, I think I’ll throw this post open to readers of the series as well.
If you’re a reader of the All’s Fair series, what are you hoping to find in this final book?