Everyone loves a sequel…, or a prequel…, or a spin-off.
Readers like them because they hope that they will give them the answers to questions that the original story threw up. Or that the new adventures of their heroes (pardon my gender type) will continue in the same vein.
Writers are quite partial to sequels, prequels and spin-offs because a lot of the heavy lifting has been done, characters have been established and those that survive into another book are known to the readers. Little is required in the way of setting development either; the world exists and is familiar. Sure, the characters may visit different locations but in general, there’s a lot less work to make it all credible. And as a writer, I can often see other possibilities as I write, outside of the scope of the story that I’m actually telling. Ideas for even more adventures.
But, and this is a biggie, there’s quite a lot more to it than that for me at the moment. There’s a pachyderm in the building, one that has me, and I’m sure a host of others screaming. I’m referring to CONTINUITY.
I don’t mean changing your hero’s hair colour, which is no more than mildly annoying to the reader. All that’s required to overcome that sort of error is to read the first book again before you start, just to make sure you have everyone as you remember them.
The problem that I’m currently stuck with is a bit more problematic than that. It revolves around what was actually said and done in the previous book. Its continuity on a grand scale and it’s messing up my sequel!
You may think that’s a strange comment, after all, what happened in the previous book was the basis of that story. Bear with me a minute here and I’ll explain.
When I wrote the original story, I had no idea that a sequel was ever going to be written. Any more than I could tell you now what my next project will be.
Even if I had thought of a sequel, I wouldn’t have had a clue about what would happen, more than in the most general terms.
So what happened in the first book should have been fine. The sequel would just start where the other left off, use the facts and away we go.
My problem is that now I’ve decided to write a sequel, I’ve decided that I want a certain thing to happen.
It came to me as quite a crucial part of the tale. I had this great idea and spent a while sorting it out, getting it into shape. Then I thought that I’d better read the first book again, a formality to make sure it all lined up.
Before I had that great idea I had no intention of writing a sequel. So it didn’t matter how I had resolved a particular situation last time. It worked, it was logical. Job done!
Now that I am, it does! My storytelling has constrained my ability to let my sequel’s narrative develop. Not purposefully, as if that matters. Because, after all, this was a story that I was never going to write!
I really should learn that I must never say never.
I can’t get my characters to do what I want, I can’t use this wonderful piece that I’ve written and refined. And all because of what occurred in the last book. One of the characters is not present in the first book when I want someone in the sequel to remember him doing things. He had wandered off and I had forgotten.
If I had picked one of the other ways the plot could have developed, it would be fine. Although I suppose that it’s always possible that in fifty pages or so the same thing might have happened again, in a different situation.
It’s a bit like life; you’re actions and room to manoeuvre are sometimes constrained in a certain way by what’s gone before.
Incidentally, that book was a prequel that I had to write to explain a remark that a character made in the original novel. So to be technically correct, the sequel is actually the second story but the third part.
I suppose I could always try the ‘Dallas Shower’ manoeuvre (showing my age) or the ‘I don’t remember, surely you’ve got that wrong’ trick that crops up from time to time. But it feels false.
So, and this is really radical, I will have to think of something better for my cast to do. The one thing that I did manage to do was to set up several possible things in the story. Plot lines and possibilities that could be made relevant to the developing sequel. I can always explore one or more of them and see where it goes.
And as for that killer passage, I will make it into a short story, or use it somewhere else; it’s far too good to waste.
In case you’re wondering, the sequel in question is provisionally called Promise Me. It’s the sequel to Myra, which in turn was the prequel to Freefall. I hope that’s not too confusing!
Not to give too much away, in Freefall certain promises were made by Dave Travise. And there are things that still remain unanswered from Myra.
As the teaser says,
“Dave Travise has promises to keep, a Galaxy to search and no time to lose. On his journey, he’s going to be surprised at what his efforts to make things right will turn up. And just what he has to promise, and to whom. As he will find out, there’s more than one way to keep a promise.”
I can’t promise (?) when this story will see the light of day, but you can keep up to date on progress on this website.
What do you think about sequels, prequels and spin-offs? please leave a comment below.