Optional No More?
All the novellas! What is up with ALL THE NOVELLAS? I completely understand that it’s a way to keep up with the series so you don’t forget the characters or your connection to them, or even to get to know those little side characters who are often the protagonists of these novellas. I’ve even enjoyed a few of these myself. However, on the other hand I’m not sure I like how the trend is turning them into must-read novellas. Which means that if you don’t read one, you find yourself a little out of place when the next book comes out with information thrown at you seemingly out of nowhere–even if this information is superfluous to the main plot, it irritates me that it’s assumed I know of it.
For example, when Jenni read the 3rd Unearthly book she had to ask me about the novella I had read after being caught off guard by referrals to events and a key character that she had no idea about. I also have been reading some reviews as of late that mention how reading a certain novella is strongly recommended to be able to understand this and that from the next book. Not being the biggest fan of novellas (most of the time they’re too short for me to want to bother), I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t like to be forced to read them, especially now that they’re becoming trendy in every single series it seems. I like books, I like series, can’t we just leave it at that? Plus, having to hunt down the 287342763 novellas that came out is not my idea of a good time–and they’re not always readily available if you don’t have a Kindle.
But then… if I may be the devil’s advocate for a moment, this has another side to it as well. Like I said, I’m not big on novellas, and the reason is they’re usually too short and with content that is nothing more than fluff. This leads me to understand the need for more important substance if you’re going to write one–which creates a fine line between writing a strong novella, and writing an optional side story. I think there are definitely ways to achieve this and the perfect example would be prequel novellas. These show you the events that happened beforehand which are not (usually) required to fully enjoy the series, but they can be very interesting with an endless supply of plot ideas since the author is less limited. They also often run longer for the same reason.
My final verdict remains, though–I think novellas should be exactly what they used to be: a short glance at some extra happenings or from a new POV, but not necessary to be able to grasp the entirety or the plot if you only read the full length installments. Those who truly enjoy novellas might feel different, but I’m betting those who don’t rather not read them at all, than read short “significant” additional stories.
How important to you think novellas should be?
What are some of your favorites?