Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sequels Can Be Hard

     I have been getting a lot of positive feedback regarding Dead Stop lately, and naturally that feels really great. But a lot of that feedback is coming with a question that is starting to feel inevitable…

     “When is the sequel?”

     I wish I had a good answer for that. At the moment I’m working on another novel, and trying to focus on it, but I obviously can’t ignore a question that keeps coming up this often. So I admit that while I’m working on Argiope again, I do take a little time here and there to think about a potential sequel to Dead Stop.

     I did leave things where a sequel was possible. But just because I left a group of characters alive in a situation of temporary safety, does not mean that a sequel is easily written. If a sequel is going to be any good, there has to be several issues addressed or it’s going to be subpar. And as a fan of horror movies, I have seen far to many subpar sequels.

     The first problem a writer has to grapple with is character arcs.

     In a well written story, the character has gone through an experience that has changed them to some degree, and the character at the end is not exactly the same one you started out with. So in a sequel, you have to evaluate where you character currently is and what kind of character arc you are going to implement.
A good example of this would be the character Ripley from the Alien series. In the first movie she goes from a somewhat by the book third officer to badly frightened final survivor who is fighting for her life. In the second movie she goes from a frightened survivor trying to get her life back to a woman who is now fighting back and even performing the rescue of a child in the clutches of the monster. After that the series starts to fall apart, and one of the reasons is they had pretty much taken the character of Ripley as far as they reasonably could. There were other problems too, but character was a big one.

     I’m going to use Alien and Aliens again for the second problem as well. And that is the overall tone of the book. Alien was a creepy, claustrophobic, haunted house in space. It was original, and it was very successful, so one would almost expect the sequel to try and recreate that atmosphere. But the sequel had James Cameron in charge, who was wise enough to take things in a direction that was new, but also made sense considering the situation. The second became a run and gun shoot’em up with strong elements of horror. And while I didn’t agree with everything Cameron did, I admit it was effective.
So a writer has to consider the tone of a sequel as well. Can he recreate the feel of the first book? SHOULD he recreate the feel of the first book? What other tone could be reasonably struck with the characters and situation at hand. These things have to be considered.

     Yes, anybody can write a sequel. The question is whether or not it can be a good one that is worthy of the first book. 

     That’s a whole different story.

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