Some of you may know I dabble in writing series of books. There is the Naked Crow series and the three Mirror Earth books.
A while ago I was asked the question if it would be possible to just grab one of the Naked Crow books and dive into the story. My answer: no. The person asking was a bit surprised, which in turn surprised me. For me, a series is like a set of building blocks; each next book builds on the previous one(s). To reintroduce the characters all over again in book 7 would be rather annoying for the people who read the first 6 books already. At least in my series.
Suppose the series tells about a specific place, then things would be different. There is that one place and each story would introduce characters specific to the story, not the series. There could be some interaction between some stories about the same location, but the location would be the ‘main character’, not the people who walk around there.
Not so with the series where people are the main focus of attention. Jumping into the middle or even the end of a series and working your way backwards through those, to me feels like building a house from the top down. Who in his or her right (writing) mind would start with the roof where everything comes together, and then work down to the concrete foundations where everything starts, rests on?
Next time someone asks me that question, I should find out if he/she also tends to start watching a television series halfway and then skips around to part 4, part 12, part 3 and then part 5.
I think I already know the answer.