Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our Love Of Sequels

Go Set a WatchmanHarry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHeir to the EmpireDoctor Sleep.

What do all of these have in common?  They're all sequels, of course.

Why do sequels enthrall us so?  We always bitch about how there's never a good new idea out there, yet we then we flock to sequels like they're made of gold.

I think the answer comes down to a few things.  First, the world of the sequel is familiar.  For all of our griping about wanting fresh ideas for stories, we wrap ourselves in the familiar.  It makes us feel safe when there's something we understand and have seen before.  Look at America's love of comic strips - the most successful ones are the most familiar, right down to the clothes they wear everyday.  A novel sequel is similar in the fact that we've already been introduced to the world and the characters, so returning to them feels comfortable.

Additionally, very few novels wrap up a character's life in such a neat bow that we don't want to know more.  Sure, we can always read the "And they lived happily ever after" part of the ending, but most of us want to see them live happily ever after, even if that means there are a few more bumps along the way.  To watch them continue with life and its struggles lets us know that people we care about continue to exist.

That continuity provides balance to life.  We see that others can endure, so it helps us endure, as well as escape our own doldrums.  When I sit down to read a sequel, I can lose myself in the story of a friend, and as artsy-fartsy as it sounds, we do come to think of these folks as friends.  We want to know our friends keep on going, so we hold sequels tight as a way of seeing that.

We can always say no one has an original idea, but if we keep taking on sequels, don't we lose at least a little bit of the right to complain?  I'm not saying loving a sequel is bad, only that we often get what we ask for, even if we stomp our feet and yell that we don't.


  1. I don't stomp my feet--I love me a good sequel.

    Then, of course, there are the *bad* sequels ...

    1. I agree. I've read more than my share.