Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sequels – The Good and Bad

Well, just before I posted this, I sent my fourth story in as many weeks to BattleCorps, a personal record for me. I haven’t heard back from Jason yet, but if he does think they’re good enough to be published, you’ll see them. If not, we’ll see....

But I’m not resting on my laurels. I have several more stories in various state of being written. As I look over the list, I find that three of them I have half-written are sequels.

Most BattleCorps stories are one-shots – the characters appears in the story and are never heard from again. With the size of the Battletech Universe, there’s no need to use the same characters over and over again. They have their time in the spotlight, then they disappear back into the larger universe, their story told. Some characters are only good for one story.

But a few still have stories that need to be told. These few have enough force to carry a second story, a sequel. Some are even strong enough to carry several stories. Sometimes, readers want to see more of these character, while sometimes, the author has a story that is right for the characters.

On the plus side of writing a sequel, it’s expanding on the characters and their dynamics from the first story, adding more to them. It allows the writer to add another layer to the character and situations. A supporting character in the first story might get some more screen time, or we learn more about one character’s background. Events or things mentioned in the first story might be explained in a second or even third story. It’s like sitting down and talking with an old friend.

On the minus side. . . . well, how many movie sequels were as good as the first? Not too many. When writing a sequel, you have to get into the same mental zone you were in when you wrote the first story. If the first story was a lighthearted farce, the second story has to close to that tone. If the first story was dark and serious, the sequel cannot be at the other end of the spectrum. Striking the balance between the new storyline and the old characters is difficult; Too much of one hurts the other.

Sometimes, writers feel they have to top the first story with the sequel. Bigger story, more action, higher stakes sort of idea. But I think trying for that will result in a failed sequel. A sequel has to have ties to the original story, but it can’t be a clone of the first. It also depends on how final the first story ends. Some stories end and are not easy to continue; characters die, the situation ends in a way that makes it difficult to continue, or the characters have nothing more to offer.

But sometimes, the characters do have something more to offer and it’s simply finding a place and a plot where they can be used. Maybe the background still has some good fodder for stories, or there are a few loose ties from the first story that can be explored.

I have found a couple of my characters who have both something more to say and who can continue. One is Precentor Gazeal, the Manei Domini precentor. He’s not finish having his say, not even after my second story about him. Assuming I can work it out, Evacuation will not be the last time Gazeal appears in one of my stories. There are a couple of more characters that seem interested in staying around; again, if I can work it out they’ll be back.

And now I must get back to writing....


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