Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sequeled Expectations

It's hard, you know, writing that much asked for sequel from a popular title you've received great reviews and fanmail for. How do you go about getting an idea that is just as just as good as hook, promises just as much action or has just as memorable characters as the original?

Oh, geez don't look at me. I struggle with this every time I sit down to write a sequel. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don't.

I started out as fantasy author and in that particular genre sequels aren't just a suggestion, they are a damn requirement. Never write a fantasy novel unless you can carry out an over-all theme or continued trials and trepidations for an entire series of books, or you're just not going to garner any fans. (Wheel of Time, Sword of Shannara, Heralds of Valdemar anyone?)

Now, I've read enough fantasy to know there are two camps of sequels: books that are written about the continuing saga of the original hero/heroine and the sequels which involve the lives of the secondary characters. Either way the author chooses to go the reader is in for a good yarn spinning. Now, with romance, the sequels or series almost always involve the love lives of the secondary characters.

And therein lies the rub.

Sometimes you have a character who is a great secondary, but once they take the spotlight they shy away from the attention. Under these conditions the poor author has no choice but to coax, bribe, threaten and coerce the characters to behave or the entire plot gets thrown off kilter. How well I know this. I'm writing two sequels for two different series at the moment that have been derailed almost since page one. It's not been fun - it's been hell at the keyboard. Finally, I've decided to just write the shenanigans as they appear and slash and cut on the edits. Let the characters believe they're getting their own way, and then pull the rug out from under them after they've had their say.

Even with lots of plotting ahead of time. Either the story drags, unlike the first book, or there is just some wacky-ass tangent that crops up and I can't seem to navigate my way out of with a compass and GPS. Currently, my sequel to High Octane, my Feb. release from Samhain, titled Water Mark, has my hero in prison and he's just endured not only a horrible ass beating, but an entire body shave by the staff. This was never in my original outline - especially the part about the loss of body hair from head to foot. (Don't worry, I have the prison barber leaving on the dude's eyebrows. I just couldn't imagine my poor hero looking like the lead singer from Midnight Oil.) I'd rather he looked like Imhotep from The Mummy if he has to be bald. Or Vin Diesel in The Chronicles of Riddick. Anyhow, this incarceration has left me at a crossroads where I'm looking around going, "How in the hell did I get here?" (Imagine the song, Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads - that's what I sounded like.) But now my intrepid heroine must bust him out of those prison walls. How in the hell am I supposed to accomplish that? Fear not. I think I have it figured out.

Meanwhile, I've had a really scary, sexy, bloody dream about a vampire that was rescued by a woman and taken to a clinic where he has all these blood transfusions. Don't ask. It was just weird. Maybe I can use that in my sequel to The Host, but I doubt it. I'll keep it in the back of my brain for future reference.

And what about the world building aspect of sequels. Most of the rules are established in book one. It helps to keep a "bible" of names and places and intricate details. Generally, I'll do this, but I've noticed the last few, I've been a little slack on as of late. There is one a futuristic-fantasy-erotic duology I'm writing that I've kept a notebook for as I go. If I name something, I've been very diligent about adding it in the notebook for just that particular series and I know exactly where to find it. It's helped me on more than one occassion. Especially when I pepper the prose with made up names for Gods and Goddess and their function in that culture. With two books to write in that particular world, I thought it behooved me to fall back on my abandon habits.

What is your experience with sequels? Do you write them, or avoid them like a plague carrier with the swine flu? Do you find them easier or harder?



Sierra Wolfe said...

Hmmm. Well, I can't speak from a writing aspect, because I've never written one. I'm lucky to finish the first story, much less a second one. ;) But, I do love to read them. Sequels are fabulous. It gives me more time in the world of some of my favorite characters. Frankly, I enjoy reading sequels about secondary characters that get their own story lines. Not that I don't enjoy the same main characters throughout, I do, but I really like getting to know other characters even more.

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