I was in the process of writing a sequel to my novel and was actually curious about something. Reading through your posts, you seem to have a bit of a bias against direct sequels. I was just wondering if you could explain why?
Sequels have their place in a limited capacity IMHO. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the market in both movies and books, sequels have sprung up to be a lot more than they should be.
Did we really need or want a sequel to The Last Unicorn? How was the story served by beating a dead horse? Did Two Hearts really add anything that we really needed to see, or was the ambiguity of The Last Unicorn’s ending all that was really necessary?
How were the characters from the Phantom of the Opera served in Love Never Dies?
When will Hollywood open its eyes and realize that they’re never going to make a Jurassic Park as good as the original and this series is just getting painfully and progressively worse?
Now granted, these are rather extreme examples from their respective mediums, but I could literally write an Epic Novel of all the horrible sequels that have absolutely ruined great stories. In most classic literature, there were no sequels, or if there were, they were very rare. A writer would put everything into one epic novel and that would be it.
So why have sequels exploded?
Well… I think there are a few reasons for this…
First and most obviously, money. Publishers really don’t want one-offs. They want continued stories that they can cash in on. As a result, writers who otherwise only wrote one book would then be forced to go beyond ‘happily ever after’. The result would be a forced, contrived, and almost always inferior product to the original. Others would take their one Epic novel and break it up into several novellas or smaller novels. There are some advantages to this, obviously. Readers have to pay for more books, which keeps the publisher happy, and it’s a quicker read for people who are just looking for a fun but brief romp.
Secondly, attention spans… A lot of people have trouble reading as it is. So a lengthy novel isn’t something a lot of people are going to be into. This is especially true with younger readers. The attention span just isn’t always there. It’s an unfortunate truth, but one we all have to live with.
Finally, extended stories. There’s always going to be many of these out there. In some cases, no matter how you swing it, one book just isn’t going to be enough. You’re going to need more space and no one wants to try to put out another Les Miserables. It just won’t do well on the shelves with a high price tag or… lack of portability.
The end result is the market being flooded by unnecessary sequels that do nothing to add to the world they were set in and are typically panned by readers and often forgotten.
So while I do believe that sequels have their place, I do not believe that they are as necessary as the market suggests.
So let’s say you’re like me and you’ve written your masterwork, but the publisher wants more. You’ve finished your story, all loose ends are tied up, and there’s nothing left to do. Happily Ever After is Happily Ever After, right? Well… not if you want in published in the traditional sense.
So now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. A major selling point for your story has been cut off. What do you do? Well, if you’re a fool like I was, you put your foot down and say that you really don’t have any plan on writing a sequel to the story. At which point, you can kiss goodbye most chances of a publishing deal.
Thankfully, there are always ways around this. I started writing sequels to my stories by… not writing sequels. Basically what I did was write a new story in the same universe with different characters and either the same or a different enemy. Then you connect them by having characters or locations from the previous story make cameos or get honorable mentions.
So to answer your question, I don’t really mind sequels, as long as they’re used appropriately and not an obvious cash grab. They have their place, but I don’t think they are as necessary as many want to believe. They often do a lot more damage than good. Anyway, I hope this clears this up for you. Feel free to leave me your thoughts in the comments!
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I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
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