Throwing the Book at Publishers by Gemma Carroll

The Maze Runner.  Harry Potter.  The Hunger Games.  Twilight.  Lord of the Rings.  Divergent.  All film franchises that have achieved varying degrees of success.  As the third instalment of The Hunger Games is imminent as I type this, as is another Hobbit film, it got me thinking about not just the trend for splitting a story up into several films (Harry Potter’s saga is told over eight of them) but the fact that this cinematic formula is borne out of the fact that it is becoming increasingly common for stories to be told over a multitude of books, typically released a year apart, although sometimes the gaps between books can be longer.

Although the length of stories can vary and book series’ are in themselves no bad thing, I do wonder about how people with dyslexia feel about this format becoming mainstream.  Prior to Harry Potter I don’t believe it was so common in children’s literature.  Granted, there were series’ of books, but there is a world of difference between self-contained books focusing on the same character and an ongoing narrative that is told over multiple volumes.  Given that dyslexia can affect short-term memory, digesting plots has the potential to be problematic.  For the same reason, books the length of War and Peace are not recommended.  However, at the risk of sounding controversial, what is wrong with the first instalments of the aforementioned franchises being lone stories, rather than part of a wider arc?  A good novel should be able to stand on its own without needing to find out what happens in the next book.  More and more, publishers seem to be losing sight of this, potentially alienating dyslexic readers in the process.

This could have far-reaching consequences.  Having previously mentioned that people with dyslexia have issues accessing texts, I feel that I should point out that it is sometimes not the font or layout that is the problem, but the sheer amount of it.  Furthermore, imagine how it would feel to have struggled to finish a book due to having a difficulty with reading and then discover that while that may be the end of the book, it is not the end of the story.  Consequently, reading the first part in, say a trilogy, may seem like a wasted effort to someone with dyslexia.  While some people may say wait until the series is finished and buy the boxset, or why complain there’s always the option of using an audiobook, I feel they are missing several points.

Firstly, people need to be adequate readers in order to navigate through life, and I see no reason why this should not be encouraged through reading for pleasure.  Secondly, if an individual is not reading something at the same time as their peers, the interest could wane and the book could be abandoned, rendering starting it pointless.  Thirdly, why should stories be structured in such a way that they are harder to access for 1 in 10 people in the UK, when in reality it is completely unnecessary?

For those that say it is a good thing to do (and I agree that it is), I would still argue there is a way of doing it – there is a massive difference between self-contained stories alongside an ongoing narrative (such as the way that, for the most part, J.K Rowling did the Harry Potter series) and leaving the second book of a trilogy, for instance, on a huge cliff-hanger that poses more questions with regards to the story rather than answers any that the reader has, because there is no conclusion (such as what occurred in The Hunger Games).

Of course, as has been said countless times before on this blog, dyslexia affects everyone who has it differently, and so this will not pose a problem for all those who have dyslexia.  However, for the sake of those that it does hinder, it may be that publishers need to think about putting an end to this trend.

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