How would you prevent sequelitis?:

Total posts: [21]
1 Voltech446th Feb 2013 08:01:13 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel , Relationship Status: Non-Canon
All Guns Sparking
It’s been too long since the last time I posted something. So let’s give this thing a go, yeah?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about sequels — sequels and reboots and all that canon-expanding goodness. A new Star Wars is on the way, and DmC has been in the hands of gamers for a few weeks now; both of them are making waves thanks to their potential to go wrong/do so much right…though in the latter’s case, trying to add to something so precious to the fans can be a risky pursuit. So considering that there are a lot of people here that are out to make their stories known and revered, I thought I’d ask a question.

Let’s say that your work — novel, comic, game, what have you — has been a success. A pretty big success, at that; fans and critics alike praise your work for having a sensational combination of elements. The right stuff, without question. So of course, the time eventually comes for you to start with the sequel-making…even if you didn’t want a sequel in the first place. Expectations are high, but you know that taking just one step forward can spell doom if you aren’t careful.

So I suppose my question is a two-pronged attack. That is…

1) What elements of your work do you think would make it successful in the first place?

2) How would you preserve or enhance those elements for a second outing (and beyond)?

I’m guessing that there are plenty of tropers out there (myself included) who have plans to make multiple episodes out of their work instead of a one-shot adventure, so I’m interested in hearing how you’ll move from one piece of the puzzle to the next. And who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself and your work.

So what do you say? Ready to start trooping, tropers? Er…troping, troopers? Uh…something endearing to end the opening post on?

edited 6th Feb '13 8:02:23 PM by Voltech44

My blog — Read it, and (maybe) become a writing hero!
The Puzzler
The #1 audience I have to satisfy with my writing is me as a reader. If people love my story it is because I put much work into making Reader!Eldritch like it. If I put the same effort into a completely different story then those people who enjoy reading what I write will enjoy reading my new story. Those who are just going to stay in their genre will continue to do so.

And I'm fine with that.
Has ADD, plays World of Tanks, thinks up crazy ideas like children making spaceships for Hitler. Occasionally writes them down.
3 MajorTom6th Feb 2013 08:29:18 PM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
I already planned ahead on that. Beyond even what any exec would think of.

However if it were something I made that had no plans for a sequel well first thing's first, I wouldn't make a re-hash and Retcon of the first work. New adventure, new threat, new villain, new story, etc.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
4 nrjxll6th Feb 2013 08:31:37 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]Largely this, although I have no intention of ever making an unplanned direct sequel to anything.

edited 6th Feb '13 8:32:30 PM by nrjxll

Plan sequels, write them immediately after the previous is finished.
6 judasmartel6th Feb 2013 08:49:45 PM from Philippines , Relationship Status: [TOP SECRET]
The Dark Knight
I don't plan for sequels. I just write my stuff as a single show and that's it. But I do plan for spin-offs. I'll just write them the way I usually do, but with new plot, characters, and twists; whether it follows the canon or not.

The only exception is when the spin-off occurs before or between the canon events, in which case the events should build up to the canonical plot, unless said spin-off is All Just a Dream or something like that.

edited 6th Feb '13 8:51:41 PM by judasmartel

7 Wolf10666th Feb 2013 11:44:18 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
For some of my stories I've got ideas for sequels and/or other works with different characters set in the same universe, while for others I've got no plans for sequels.

If, by some strange fluke one of those latter stories took off to the point the editor came back and said, "look, the fans are hungry for a sequel" I'd have to look closely to see if there's any scope for a sequel at all and any sequel would have to be based on an entirely different set of circumstances.

Rebooting and retconning would be right out, though.

I don't like the idea of sequel for sequel's sake. If the characters and/or universe suggest more stories to me, then well and good - but, like Larry Niven's tales of Known Space and other universes he's created, I like my stories to stand on their own and not be "Part n of the Y Z-ogy" style stories that require you to read 3 books to work out who the characters are and how they got there and a further 4 books to find out how it ends.

I may well have these characters have this adventure then have other characters have a different adventure in the same world and then have the first characters have a completely new adventure in that world, and maybe even have a few adventures where some of the characters from the other books work together for another.

There would be a chronology running throughout (oh, this must come before that other one I read as Joe's still single in this and they haven't discovered Kevinium yet) and consistency but I'd prefer you could pick up any book, read and understand it, see it resolved and be quite content with that. If you want to pick up another, that's up to you.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
8 Demetrios6th Feb 2013 11:46:14 PM from Mount Prospect, Illinois , Relationship Status: Wishing you were here
King of the North
Very good tip, Leradny. [tup]
Aurora is Best Princess.
9 fillerdude7th Feb 2013 01:30:27 AM , Relationship Status: Getting away with murder
I always make an effort to craft the verse, regardless of how different it is from our reality. So I can draw from what's in the verse for any possible sequel.

I generally do try to avoid sequels though. I like same-verse-different-characters stories better.
10 Lomerell7th Feb 2013 10:29:49 AM from North Carolina , Relationship Status: I only want you gone
Jason R. Peters
My experience is that most speculative authors (fantasy especially) set out wanting to craft agrand epic of umpteen books. Since everybody wants this, every editor has seen it. Umpteen times.

For many amateurs/starters, it can become an excuse to get away with simply bad writing. Of course you must have Loads And Loadsof Characters to fill all those books. You must have Info Dumps. Right?


To me, the thing that prevents sequelitis is the same thing that makes good sequels. Films like Terminator 2 and Aliens were memorable despite being sequels because they twist the original idea. Toy Story 2 introduces entirely new problems; Toy Story 3 does again. This is in contrast to sequels which retread the same ground as the original, often in the same order. Should Belgareth and Polgara show up to save the day...again?

Aliens took the idea of one original scary alien you never see and took it Up to Eleven. What if there's hundreds? What if they already have human hostages? What if there's a little girl surviving in the same complex? Terminator 2 gave us the coldhearted machine as an ally. Whereas T1 gave a Stable Time Loop, T2 gave us contradictions, ethical dilemma. Instead of a terrified waitress on the run, T2 gave us a badass teen who doesn't even know how much danger he's in. And a Mama Bear so mean she'll preemptively kill innocents just to stop the war.

If your sequel is just the same characters doing more, it'll drag on. Worse, if it's the same bloody plot (unless Played for Laughs like Austin Powers), that's tiresome.

The most important thing to me is to write an initial story that stands on its own. And if there is enough content in the universe to support a sequel in the same 'verse, but sufficiently different, it too should stand on its own.

And the same for each subsequent book.

If you're setting out just to fill pages and volumes, that's all you'll end up doing: Filling.

edited 7th Feb '13 10:30:45 AM by Lomerell

11 Wolf10667th Feb 2013 11:36:32 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely


When the "sequels" devolve into the same plot recycled, or the exact same story retold through somebody else's POV (I'm looking at you David Eddings), I switch off.

I count the Die Hard movies as an exception only because I classify them as comedies - face it, you don't watch them for their plot, you watch them to see lots of shit go BOOM (the first things to go BOOM invariably being Willing Suspension of Disbelief and plausibility. You forget them, take your brain off the hook, and watch).

When it's supposed to be serious and the plots are recycled to the point that it looks like the author/script writer merely used Find-and-Replace on the original for every character except the main one, then I put them just one Find-and-replace short of a Romance writer.

edited 7th Feb '13 11:36:53 AM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
Dapper Gentleman
I can only speak for myself, but as I write my current novel, I'm simultaneously planning out the arc of the plot over the rest of the series, so that following installments will (hopefully) be more like the continuations of a greater whole than sequels. I fully intend to end the first book with some unanswered questions and plot threads left hanging (though its particular emotional and dramatic progression will, of course, reach its conclusion), to be continued in the future.

In short, if one intends sequels, it's quite helpful to know where one is going with them. Making things up as one goes along is a dangerous pursuit.
"And every life is a special story of its own." —The Stargazer, Mass Effect 3
13 ohsointocats7th Feb 2013 01:23:28 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Honestly, the best way to prevent sequelitis is to not be financially successful the first time around.
14 Wolf10667th Feb 2013 04:24:22 PM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
[up]Oh, good, I'm perfectly safe, then.
Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
15 nrjxll7th Feb 2013 04:51:22 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
In short, if one intends sequels, it's quite helpful to know where one is going with them. Making things up as one goes along is a dangerous pursuit.

Yes. Writing by the Seat of Your Pants is all well and good for standalone works, but it's extremely dangerous when doing serials.
16 Tiamatty7th Feb 2013 08:15:39 PM from Now on Twitter , Relationship Status: Brony
I can't say it's likely to happen to me, partly because I never expect to actually be published, and also because the stuff I'm writing is being written as ongoing serials rather than as set stories.

I guess I am writing one story with a beginning, middle and end, and if people wanted a sequel . . . I don't know.

It's tough. It's a nearly impossible situation, it needs to be different from the original work while remaining similar. Big changes will upset the readers, and keeping it too similar will upset them.

I suppose the first step is to make sure the sequel makes sense, from a story perspective. You can't just throw all the characters together again at random and toss them into another adventure. The events that bring them back together and back to adventure need to make sense.

The other thing to do is to determine whether you need to change the scale. Conventional wisdom is that the sequel needs to be bigger than the original, but I'm not sure that's the best way to go. If your first story had a fairly large scale to begin with, it might be best to do something more personal for the sequel. If the original story was very personal, then you need to keep it personal, but show the characters as being older, more mature for the experiences they had previously.
17 MajorTom7th Feb 2013 09:01:21 PM , Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Yes. Writing by the Seat of Your Pants is all well and good for standalone works, but it's extremely dangerous when doing serials.

Not necessarily. It offers the advantage of complete freedom of creativity for the sequels. Meaning you don't have to use the same villains or antagonists, you don't have to stretch out an old convention like a romance subplot, and you don't have to abide by the same conventions or themes you used in the previous one.

Pants-writing gives you the ability to go beyond that, to defy the critics and audiences expectation that you'll pull a similar stunt as the first/previous installment.

The only real drawback and risk is it runs highly probable into possible Retcon territory and/or incongruities/inconsistencies with established canon before.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
18 Mort0810th Feb 2013 08:18:12 PM from Oklahoma , Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
Pirate AND writer!
When your fans demand a sequel, say no. I speak from experience.
19 nrjxll10th Feb 2013 08:56:02 PM , Relationship Status: Not war
[up][up]Serials, not "sequels". Although I tend to frown upon non-serial sequels anyway.
20 Voltech4413th Feb 2013 11:21:48 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel , Relationship Status: Non-Canon
All Guns Sparking
Wow, lots of great responses. I'll have to keep these close at hand, and keep them the My Documents folder of my heart! (Because that's how computers and souls work.)

Well, anyway, I've been thinking about what to say in this post — besides the obvious thank you to you Tropers — and I think I might have come up with something. Reckless as it may sound, I would love to make (and plan to make) sequels to some of my stories. But I think that the thing I need to keep in mind is "the lessons learned." There are ideas and themes that I've tapped before, and the way I see it (and Lomerell by extension, if I've got it right) a sequel is a way to continue exploring and expanding on those ideas. My intent is to focus on one significant event/adventure/goal from one installment to the next, so I suppose as long as I continue to tap the essence of my tales — and not forget the lessons learned, both by my characters and by me — I might be better off.

That said, you bring up a good point, Tiamatty — the scale might be something I'll really have to consider. Much as I'd like to write intense epics, a part of me thinks that I might be better off working on a more personal level...frankly, I think that's what I enjoy writing most. I'm willing to experiment a little, though, so who knows what'll happen?

In any case, thanks again to all of you. Good to know that I can always count on a Troper or two. Or twenty. Or however many people frequent Writer's Block.
My blog — Read it, and (maybe) become a writing hero!
Depending on the nature of the sequel, I will have a general idea first and do the rest when I actually write. This only works if the works are highly plot focused and the sequels has nothing to do with the original work. In my works, this is always the case, but I do bring back older characters. Then again, my works are highly plot focused and the changes in the characters can be justified.

Just my two cents.
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Total posts: 21