SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I was deluged with requests to write a sequel to my first novel. I’m not even exaggerating: There were a few dozen requests. For me, that’s as much a deluge as what used to come through my kitchen ceiling. People like the characters, and want to hang around them for awhile longer, an idea that’s launched many good story continuations.
Sequels aren’t a new idea. I’ve often mentioned The Wizard of Oz, which started out as a book 39 years before Judy Garland slipped on her ruby slippers (don’t get me started on the color changes in the movie). L. Frank Baum’s American fantasy was so popular that he wrote 13 sequels, and when he died others took up the magical torch – there were some 40 official Oz books in all. Take that, J. K. Rowling.
But Oz suffered the same fate many book, movie, and TV series do: Some of the Oz books were wonderful, and some were … not.
Sequels have launched more bad story continuations than good ones. Here are some movie sequels which were, shall we say, smelly:
The Matrix Reloaded. Do you watch a lot of music videos? Imagine the one you’ve seen that had the best visuals, but was also the most stunningly nonsensical and confusing. There you go.
Battle For the Planet of the Apes. This pains me. I loved that movie series. But this allegorical soap opera was so bad that even I noticed it at the age of 11 – and I’m easily entertained.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. If there’s any truth to the theory that odd numbered Star Trek movies are horrible, this is exhibit A. That James T. Kirk takes on God isn’t surprising, considering William Shatner directed this movie; but Kirk and Spock singing campfire songs is unforgiveable.
Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. If it seems like I’m picking on science fiction, it’s because I love the genre so much. With this movie, the opening scroll that once told of intergalactic rebellion changes to … trade and taxes. As in real life, the boring stuff was probably more important, but that doesn’t make it entertainment. Add to that a kid who’s just a downer and a Jedi Knight committing an unforgiveable sin: Saving Jar Jar Binks.
Speed 2: Cruise Control. Okay, the first movie was about – wait for it – speed. Things going fast. Busses, trains, even elevators. The sequel was about a giant cruise ship. They should have turned off the cruise control.
Weekend at Bernies II. The first one was an actually funny movie about a dead guy. You just can’t pull that off twice, so the sequel, like Bernie by this point, stinks.
Superman III. Maybe it looked particularly bad compared to the two great movies that came before, but let me make this clear: Richard Pryor was a great comedian who just didn’t fit in a superhero movie.
Of course, some of those might be your favorite movies, if you’d care to admit it. Many good sequels have come along, too: Toy Story 2, Goldfinger, Aliens, The Godfather Part 2 … Not to mention Star Trek II, which, yep, even numbered Trek movie. The first one (odd numbered) featured mind-blowing special effects for the time, and one of the best movie scores ever, but Trek fans who showed up to watch it a second time were puzzled to find themselves falling asleep.
I wonder how much hate mail is winging its way to me, even as we speak.
As I say, entertainment tends to be subjective, and just between you and me I liked much of the first Trek movie. Don’t tell.
Lots of things can go wrong with a movie sequel, but books aren’t done quite so much by committee. Generally, if a book sequel fails it’s because the writer lost respect for the characters, stopped caring about the process, or just ran out of ideas. Well, I’m not making enough money from Storm Chaser to be selling out, so it’s not about the process, and if ideas were visible I’d be blind from the cloud of them, chasing after me like little plot mosquitoes.
That leaves characters. Here’s the thing: I’ve got three other novel manuscripts finished: two waiting to be polished a little and one being revised for a publisher. Multiply that by a few hundred and that’s how many ideas for new stories I have. I don’t need to do a sequel to Storm Chaser; I figure if people really like my writing, they’ll come back to check out whatever story I write.
But when I create a character, they become real to me, and I couldn’t stick around real people for the year it takes to finish a novel if I didn’t love the world they inhabit. Like people who demand a sequel to a great movie, I want to spend more time around my characters, and see what happens to them next.
So yes: I’m going to write a sequel to Storm Chaser. In fact, I already have.
In fact, it already sold to Whiskey Creek Press, and it’ll come out in about a year. It’s too late to stop me now.
Of course, there’s also that anthology of short stories set before the events of Storm Chaser, which came out as an e-book last year.
But prequels are a whole other discussion.