sequel

Prequel Schmequel

Like it or not, we live in a prequel/sequel world. It’s especially true in Hollywood, but is becoming more prevalent in the publishing world. I won’t really discuss sequels. Quite a lot of sequels suck, but I have nothing against them, in principle. Prequels, on the other hand, should die.

To illustrate some of the problems with prequels, let’s use a series of stories that most people know:

Admit it, you’re hearing the theme song in your head right now.

And we’ll begin with a prequel that isn’t terrible:

Or, “Rouge One,” as many internet posts would have you believe.

What saves this prequel from being terrible is that it’s only telling the backstory of one thing: how the plans to the Death Star ended up being acquired. Because of this, it avoids most of the problems that make most prequels awful, but the one issue it does have is big. In fact, it’s the most basic of prequel problems: ultimately, everyone knows what the future holds.

There’s no real tension or surprise. There’s nothing in it that changes how we see the original story. Nothing is really added because, frankly, it’s enough to simply say that the rebels acquired the Death Star plans. We don’t need to know how. Showing us just how it happened might be entertaining, but  it’s not truly important.

So let’s talk about some of the issues with the process of writing prequels. Anyone who’s read or seen the original book or movie already has a number of expectations, not to mention knowledge of what’s to come in the future. This means that the writer must make the story conform to these pre-established facts and, sometimes, that’s a very tall order.

Making your new story “sync” with the original story limits your writing ability. You have a set goal from the very beginning. But, as every writer will tell you, characters take on lives of their own. Taking such “living” characters and forcing them to conform to these pre-set actions can easily result in one of two things: either it makes these characters act in a way that’s counter to how they’ve been established or, possibly worse, they never come “alive” in the first place, but are flat through the whole story. On top of that, forced conforming of other story elements often results in clichéd plots or WTF moments that seem out of place.

Too much to say…

But my biggest issue with prequels is quite basic. If you feel the prequel’s story is one that’s truly important enough to be told, you should have written it first! So why didn’t you?

Posted by vmwales in Beginnings, Details, Plot, Writing Process, 0 comments

Imposter Sequels

As many creative people are, I’m pretty protective of my intellectual property. In this case, that means the stories I write and the characters who live them. I make no secret that I’m not crazy about “fan fiction,” even though I understand where the desire to write it comes from. Heck, in my youth, I made my own attempt at fan fiction in a story blending the Star Trek and Star Wars universes. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to abandon the tale, given how wildly different those universes are. After that, I never tried it again. For those who insist on writing it, feel free. But don’t for a minute think about publishing it.

Of course, there are those out there who will disagree with me on all of those points, including the last one. Because what is an unauthorized sequel to a book by a different author other than fan fiction?

Here’s one example.

A somewhat popular book that was made into a movie you might have seen.

Margaret Mitchell died decades before this thing was published:

The “sequel,” which was made into a TV mini-series you probably didn’t watch.

Another writer, though, didn’t have the decency to wait. Here’s another one you probably know:

The original.

And…

The phony.

Salinger was still alive when the sequel was published in Sweden and was in the process of suing the publisher at the time of his death. A lot of things have been said about the book… that it’s not really a sequel, but a parody; that it’s a literary criticism of the original; and that it actually reads like fan fiction. (*ahem*) I wouldn’t know, since I have no intention of ever reading it (having not enjoyed Catcher in the first place). However, even though I wasn’t a fan of Catcher, I was opposed to this book for the same reasons Salinger was: I didn’t feel “J.D. California” had any right to publish it in the first place.

Now, there are plenty of sequels out there written by people other than the original authors, done with the approval of the copyright holders of the originals (the James Bond novels published after Ian Fleming’s death, for example). Some, I hear, are quite good.

My experiences have been less than stellar. Frank Herbert’s Dune series is, in my opinion, incredible. The Dune books by Frank’s son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson don’t really do it for me.

But a recently published work has me reconsidering my refusal to partake in such sequels again. I’m referring to The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Written by David Lagercrantz, it continues the “Millennium” series of books by the late Stieg Larsson, which gave us the character of Lisbeth Salander –  for my money, one of the most compelling characters ever written. It is that love for the character that made me consider reading it, while at the same time being afraid to.

Yes, read them.

Amazon reviews currently show it with a four-star rating, after some 1600+ reviews. That’s not bad. I tend to read negative user reviews first, and some of the complaints do give me concern, but they are so overshadowed by positive reviews that I’m willing to overlook them.

In the end, one factor has led me to decide to read it. I skimmed the first few pages using Amazon’s “look inside” feature, and learned that one of the minor characters is a young autistic boy who has yet to speak his first word by age eight. As it happens, I now have a young autistic boy in my life who has an essentially non-existent vocabulary at age seven. So, yeah… I think I’ll give it a shot.

Fingers crossed.

 

Posted by vmwales in Other Writers, Publishing, 0 comments