“Sequel”

It’s kind of hard to be at all aware of popular culture and not know what this noun’s second definition is: “A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative continues that of a preexisting work.”

            Hollywood thrives on sequels. (Or, some critics might argue, sequels are killing the industry.) In fact, some of my favorite movies are sequels – “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”, “The Swan Princess: The Mystery of the Enchanted Kingdom” (okay, urgent disclaimer, that last one is a former favorite; way, way, way, former)… The reason that I was eager to watch these three movies, which all happen to be the third in their respective series, is that I had seen and enjoyed the movies that preceded them. That right there is the big draw of the sequel: Somebody liked that aforementioned preexisting work enough that they wanted more of it.

            It is a dismal truth, however, that sequels do not always live up to their predecessors. Many books and movies are milked well past the point of quality’s demise. Stories are stretched to ridiculous proportions, or shamelessly recycled, or (sometimes, it seems) barely bothered with, all for the sake of spending a little more time with these characters or in that world (or in the hopes of pulling in a few more dollars).

            As an author, I am faced at every book’s completion with a choice: Do I crank out Part Two/Three/Four…, or do I end it here?

            I could make an illustration of “The Wilderhark Tales”, but that’s been getting more than its fair share of shout-outs on this blog. I’ll use a different example: My “World of the Dream” saga. I wrote the first book without any ambitions for a follow-up. Bruno battles evil in his sleep – action, adventure, witty quips and unicorns, the end. I would have been happy to leave it at that… except that I was soon afterward inspired to do more. I saw a storyline that could be taken farther, deeper, darker, and more urgent than before. I ran with it, and it ended on a note that loudly demanded a third installment. With the trilogy concluded, I would have been willing to swear that that was that.

            That wasn’t that. For all kinds of reasons that I could go into, but then I’d have to kill you (spoilers, don’t you know), there needed to be a Book Four, which I wrote. And frankly, I would love a Book Five. But I don’t think there’s going to be one. Some sort of prequel, doubtful-but-possibly, or another related short story or novella (one has been written already). But not a Book Five. The fourth book’s final chapter felt as truly final as any ending I’ve ever typed.

            I know I said I’d leave “Wilderhark Tales” alone for this one (but it turns out I can’t, because I’m obsessed), but it was really the same way. Once I’d hit the fourth book, I was planning for seven, just because I thought the number suited the series. But by the time I was deep into Book Six, I could feel it: This was the end. Never mind the suitability of seven. Never mind that I could give my tailor seventy times seven books and still find more to say. (And I honestly can’t decide if that’s an exaggeration or not.) That narrative was over, and to try to force another book would have been pathetic overkill. An artist with a heart for quality has to know when to say, “Enough.”

            Whether or not Hollywood will ever adopt that attitude remains to be seen.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on ““Sequel”

  1. Wow, to have written so many books! Are you published? I have had good ideas for ten or twenty, but I’ve only started a couple, and never finished one. This month, though, is the first time in ten years that I’ve tried writing anything beyond exercises, prompts, etc. So far, I’m averaging 500 words/day. So keep your fingers crossed!

    I wonder how many sequels they made for the Land Before Time? My son has tons of them! (But he does seem to like them all…)

    • Not published yet, but I’ve been busy in the meantime! And I, too, have several unfinished projects, which I may or may not return to, someday.
      500 words a day? Pretty solid pace! What sort of stories have you been working on? ^^

      Haha, I quickly lost track of the “Land Before Time” sequels, but I recall the number being quite impressive!

  2. Congratulations for finishing those books! It’s great that you stop your series when the story/characters require it. If you don’t have the energy and inspiration to create something just as great for a future book, why make something that’s only half as good? In Hollywood, it’s all a matter of money, not art.

    • Thanks. Knowing when to stop (and, conversely, how to keep the energy up when I *shouldn’t* stop, ’cause there’s more that needs telling) is a lot like any other part of the writing process: Learned through practice, practice, trial and error, and practice. (:
      As for Hollywood… given that I’m just as likely to be suckered by previews for “Whatever Film I Totally Loved the First Time 2” as anyone, I guess I can only yell at them so loudly.

  3. Hey!

    I’m planning on writing maybe dozens of books in one series (Land of Blue). I love my characters, and hopefully others will too, so I’m planning on taking my characters through years of their lives. Maybe even write their deaths. Not sure.

    You seem well-versed in sequels…what do you think?

    • Hey back atcha!
      If you’ve got more story to tell, I say go for it! Some characters lead lives of just one amazing adventure after another, and amazing adventures are made to be shared. For that matter, once a character’s been fallen for, the fans would be giddy to read about his/her enjoyment of a cold cereal breakfast. As authors, of course we like to provide a smidgen more plot than that, but still, it’s nice to know our darlings have garnered that measure of support. (:
      The matter of charcters’ aging and dying could go either way. I didn’t appreciate reading that sort of thing when I was younger; fast forward a few years, where I’ve written such myself. Upon reflection, I think what it boils down to is, can the characters get old without it feeling like the *series* is going gray? So long can we can keep the narrative’s energy up, then the maturation of the characters may well be a vital part of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s