Media News Monday: On Sequels

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released November 18 of this year. I haven’t seen it, nor do I really intend to, but it did get me thinking about sequels and other derivative work.

Everyone enjoys a series. There’s Star Wars, The Lord of The Rings, The Matrix, Ender’s Game, and excessive amounts more. I’ll be honest, most of the time, I hate serial works. There are exceptions, of course, I love Star Wars but there are many times where sequels and other serial work takes on a quality of being cheap and derivative. The Matrix is a perfect example. The first movie was provocative; it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. As the sequels mounted it seemed more like a poor fan-fiction (not to mock fan-fictions) of the original work.

I remember as a younger writer I imagined writing long convoluted works whose plots stretched onto forever into multi-work series. The problem is, most of that could have compressed into a single novel work and have been much better quality. There are many authors I’ve run into lately who are planning a fantastic multi-book work, and I sympathize with the work their putting in but it’s for naught. It is both more rational and better for the creativity to focus on a single book work that is inherently complete.

Books coming out recently are flat, lacking in character, insisting on plot schemes and other cheap tricks to further their narrative. Perhaps they are chasing profit and hoping a series of books sell better, but young/inexperienced writers planning out multi-book series is a bad exercise of writing.

As is typical though, I am being too critical. I understand the enjoyment in reading those long sprawling series where the character you thought died in “book 3” comes back to save the day in the last book. I get that. I enjoy reading that sparingly, too. The problem is most amateur/debut book series call on similar tools. My advice to writers more amateur than myself is simple:

Focus on a single book or short story.

Just do that. It’s harder than it sounds, especially the short stories. Don’t aspire to fame on your first, or second book. Write to improve your craft. Complete standalone works. Bleed as you write. It will illuminate parts of yourself you didn’t see before. Don’t forget the enjoyment but seek quality over profit. There will a be a grand place for writers like that in the long run. But it’s called a long run for a reason.

P.S: If you were expecting Media Inspiration Monday post, I’ve decided to cycle it with media related news to keep Mondays more lively .

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15 thoughts on “Media News Monday: On Sequels

  1. I am in complete agreement. Almost every series I’ve read ultimately becomes dull or uninspired. Frankly I’m surprised I made it past the second book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth books. Wizard’s First Rule was AMAZING, but by the time I got to the fifth or sixth book, I honestly despised the main characters. Not every book needs to kick off a new series. Some of the best titles I’ve read have been stand alone.

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  2. I tend to agree with you about sequels: the more books in the series, in general, the weaker they become. I’ve lost count of the number of those I have read. But there are certainly cases where they work. I think that this is more likely if the sequel (and indeed, prequel) can be read without having read another book. If the story is strong as a stand alone novel, it is a good novel regardless.

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  3. I totally agree about some of the series out these days. And that not everyone can pull off something like Gandalf coming back to life to save the day. Stand alone novels are usually better and for sure the thing to strive for writing, especially at first.

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  4. As far as writing advice goes this is pretty solid. However, there are some series that do not diminish. For the skeptics I propose the Chronicles of Narnia. I also remember loving the Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. The Count of Monte Cristo was also published as a series, but actually proves the Author’s point as well.

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  5. I like the idea of writing the best story you can, the best chapter and even best page, in the moment. If there’s a sequel, it should be in a spinoff of a character, if their story warrants a full narrative. What do you think?

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  6. What we’re seeing now in pop culture storytelling is a lot of recycling — keep telling the same old tales, because if people listened to it before they’re likely to listen again. And I’ve played my part in perpetuating that (re)cycle; all the Marvel movies have the same plot (hero saves world from menace he helped create), but you’ll see me in line at opening night each time. However, it’s foolish for an aspiring writer to assume their work will be easily recycled. Tell your story, and if lightning strikes and people ask for more, you’ll find a way to tell it again.

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  7. Pingback: One Can Be Greater Than More | The Diligent Dilettante

  8. Pingback: Fiction Analysis: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs | Writings By Ender

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