Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sequel/Series Pitfalls

Sequels and series are easy for both the writer and the reader.  Maybe I should say they're easier rather than easy, for it takes work to write a story or become engrossed in one.  However, they're not as hard to write or read as an original story.  The world has already been created and the characters have already been established.  As writers, we just put already established characters into new situations in the same world.  As readers, we greet series and sequels like old friends at a reunion.

That doesn't mean all is rosy with sequels or series.  There are pitfalls that must be avoided if the next installment is to be anywhere near as good, for we've all seen sequels made that seemed to shit all over the franchise.

Continuity errors - This is a biggie.  Characters that are killed in previous works can't come back.  Sure, sometimes the author does a little razzle dazzle to bring back those we loved, but to me, it always diminishes the end product.  I expect a story to progress, and bringing back those I've already mourned over holds it back.  Further, new powers and rules that contradict the old universe create an entirely different story.  That'd be okay...if it wasn't set in an already familiar universe.

Writing into corners - As a series progresses, the story has to go somewhere, so we put it on a path and see where it leads us.  Usually it leads us into a new adventure, but every once in a while, it leads us to a dead end where the plot no longer moves and the story is stale.  Although frustrating, this isn't really a big deal if the novel isn't finished.  Once it's published, though, it defines the direction of the next novel whether we want it to or not.  If we've led the story into a ditch, that's where it'll stay once the next in the series is on shelves.

Is there a purpose - Do we write a sequel or story because we really had a fresh idea, or did we do it because we ran out of ideas?  If it's the latter, the reader will know.  Stale ideas are easy to see, and they taint readers' minds the same way mold taints cheese.  Before delving into the continuance of any tale, be sure the story needs to continue.

Resolution - Some folks like for stories to continue in perpetuity.  I'm not one of them.  I like to find closure.  I want to know the characters I've come to care about have found their happy ending.  If the story just goes on and on and on and on, I'm cheated of that closure.  Even Harry Potter eventually beat Voldemort.

These are just a few things to remember when writing sequels or series.  Do them for a reason, not just to do them.  Readers can tell the difference.

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