That’s right. I’m asking.
Does an author have an obligation to the reader?
Maybe I should iron this out a bit more. Let me first narrow the focus to a certain type of author, the Series Author. I hope that’s self-explanatory enough. An author who writes books that are all connected together by either a common character or setting.
Now after the first book in the series is published, a precedent is set from there on out on what the reader is to expect from the rest of the series. For example, if a series starts out in first person-present tense, the rest of the series should adhere to that structure. If the third book in the series suddenly introduces a third-person character, written in past tense, I feel like the author is cheating.
I’ve recently finished a third book in a somewhat popular, I’ll leave unnamed, serial killer series. The first two books are solidly planted in the head of a deranged killer with a moral code of killing conduct. Fiction, not fantasy. Along comes the third book which introduces a fantasy element that completely discredits the first two installments. It could have been played off as part of the protagonist’s psychosis, but instead the author inserts a new view-point from this fantasy element. It frustrated me so much, I’m not sure I’ll read the next book.
Now I know what some of you will say. The author has complete control of the story he or she wants to tell. He or she should be free to experiment and write however he or she feels fit. And to that, I have to agree.
But. – You knew there was going to be one, didn’t you?
If you want to play around with different writing structures and constructs, do it in a new book, separate from the already established series that’s working as is. If the author is convinced they can pull off the style, they should do it in a stand-alone novel or a new series.
So now I’ll ask you. Do you think an author has an obligation to the reader? Let me know in the comments below.