1. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why do sequels lose the 'spark?'

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tessie, Feb 10, 2011.

    I'm not singling out a definite series of books, and I don’t wish to slight any author's talent, but why do sequels (including movies) tend to lose that initial fascination or excitement which readers had come to love? Feel free to give your own examples. I'm curious as to how to avoid this, since I intend to write a four book series myself.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it could be lack of forethought, my sequels only work quite well because I have had luxury of rewriting parts of previous books.

    Detective series seem to work the best - Cadfael was consistent, I love the Rose McQuinn mysteries and all bar one of Kathy Reichs has engrossed me. I am taking what i have learned from them in my fantasy books, Terry Pratchett and Anne MacCaffrey do quite well and so did CS Lewis. I think varying setting, bringing in different characters etc helps.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because a story concept doesn't last forever no matter how good it is. What was fantastic and captured the interest in the first book, has become well known and understood in the second book, etc. There might be another joy in digging deeper into the concept, but that another sort of enjoyment.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Honestly, in certain movies (cough, LOTR, POTC) I think the sequels are better.

    In books, though, I agree. I think oftentimes sequels tend to be too much of a "what happens next" reflection on the first like an epilogue that lasts forever. As Elgaisma said, adding new conflicts and new characters helps a lot.
     
  5. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    With the exception being George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. I enjoyed all four books, and I can't wait for the fifth to come out!
     
  6. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes it is the author's fault. In Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, his later books feel more like they are him preaching his own ideals rather than focusing on the story.
     
  7. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Yes, the author's fault. Like Robert Jordan.
     
  8. alter-ego
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    alter-ego Banned

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    I tend to think money has a lot to do with it. "oh look a success, now if I just throw something else together on the back of it"
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the first book has a sense of discovery--new characters, a new world or a new voice speaking about the real world, and so on. Once you know all that, the discovery is gone. You may feel fond of those now-well-known, comfy people and places, but that fondness doesn't make up for the lack of discovery and excitement.

    So I think that the sequels need to give you that sense of discovery all over again. Maybe the familiar character has changed, maybe they enter a fascinating new situation. In Martha Grimes' Richard Jury novels, as an example, I get that sense of discovery when yet another grumpy child character meets Jury and Melrose for the first time - even though I say "yet another" it still seems fresh to me every time. And the main characters do move in their lives, and the one-shot characters created just for the novel are deep and detailed enough to make it interesting when they meet the old familiar ones.

    When the "discovery" is just about bigger, shinier things, or the same old things in new costumes, as it is in some fantasy novels, that's just not enough. I don't care about a bigger monster or a new treasure or a new magic whatsit. If the matriarchal society with giant hawk mounts acts pretty much like the patriarchal society with horses, what do I care? There's a new buried treasure? There's an even bigger critter that wants to destroy everything? Bleah.

    And I'm not just pointing at fantasy novels here--they bore me faster because I just don't like fantasy all that much, while a formulaic murder mystery will find me a good deal more tolerant. But I wouldn't say that murder mystery series are usually fresher than fantasy series. Any series is likely to get stale after the first book.

    ChickenFreak
     
  10. Terri
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    Terri Senior Member

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    As long as there's plenty of action & EACH BOOK IS WRITTEN TO STAND ALONE, sequels can be just as enjoyable. While I loved Goodkind & Jordans series, they were drawn out a little too much. Can't say I'd want them chopped shorter though! Couldn't & still can't wait for more of Jordan - the man completing the series has done an incredible job so far.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or there is the Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew option and syndicate it.
     
  12. Brayden Potter
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    Brayden Potter Member

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    Not all sequels are bad, or are minus the spark, but a good portion are. And I've noticed that in the ones that have lost their way, it's usually because the writer has had absolutley no reason to continue onto a sequel, and the sequel is full of holes because even in the end they couldn't perfectly continue it on. In some cases the writer tries to drag the story on for too long, the 'Jaws' series for example. Jaws 4 was a laugh. And dare I say the 'Twilight' series is another example. Each book and subsiquent movie are basically retelling the same thing.
     
  13. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Sometimes they're used to bridge the first and third book, so nothing important really begins and ends within them. Then there's the originality; the same idea that was great the first time might lose its spark once its no longer new.
     
  14. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    That's right.

    I found myself enjoying a lot of sequels, though. The books that are previously planned to have a sequel, like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are usually the best.
     
  15. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    The Wheel of Time died for me around the middle of book 4. Sometimes I've considered picking it up again. From book 4 on, are there certain books that are better than others? Maybe I should skip some of them. And the new guy, is he more like books 1-3 Robert Jordan, or book 4 Robert Jordan?
     
  16. D.T.Roberts
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    D.T.Roberts Senior Member

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    Some sequels are actually better than the original. Look at the Hannibal Lector series. Red Dragon was the first and it was a good book, but the sequel and far more popular was Silence of the Lambs.
    Steve Martini has a series with the same MC. Paul Madriani is a lawyer who's life evolves over the series. We see him lose his wife to cancer in the third book, we see his daughter grow up. As a fan, he is a character I have come to love and identify with. His life changes in every book just like a real person.
     
  17. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Sequels" just tend to loose luster because the ideas grow tired. I think "series" work better.
     
  18. flanneryohello
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    flanneryohello Member

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    I think many times authors/creators are led into doing sequels simply because there is a demand for one, and not because the characters and/or world they'd created actually have another story in them. If you're writing something simply to fill a demand and not because you're passionate about telling the story, there's a good chance it won't live up to the original.
     
  19. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    I think there are usually a few problems. What jumps to mind is commercial pressure. When an author is writing a first book in a series he has all the time in the world to get things right as nobody is expecting something. A sequel has to follow the first novel and if it was successful the author will know that there's a certain sweet-spot that the publishers will want the author to hit. If the sequel takes too long interest dies. I think that pressure alone can cause problems for authors who don't have sequels already written before releasing the first novel.

    Usually the weakest link is in trilogy's, when the second volume is released. It doesn't have the wonderment of the original which introduces the world and setting, and doesn't have the closure and answers of the third volume. In a lot of cases it almost becomes a kind of "bridge" between two novels.
     
  20. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I don't have commercial pressure. lol I ain't published yet. :p Any further installments in my series are purely my decision. :p
     
  21. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    Yes, this. You can tell in many cases whether an author had a sequel in mind, or whether he/she just got asked to do a sequel or thought it would sell or any one of the many reasons a person might go "Well, I guess there should be a sequel" rather than "And I have this other awesome idea that comes next!"

    Each book should stand alone, as someone else said earlier, and each book should be worth writing in its own right--it should be a great story that gets you excited about writing it, or it's not worth your time. Even if it sells some copies on the strength of the first one.
     
  22. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you, guys. Your thoughts have been very helpful and enlightening! :D
     
  23. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Generally speaking, if something is popular, it needs a sequel in order to make more money off of the popularity, not so much because the story has anywhere left to go.

    To this end, they tend to be a rehash for profit, or worse yet, they creators think they need something new and creative to keep their audience's interest...and of course, the something new and different isn't what interested the audience in the first place. Since they have meandered away from what originally entertained their audience, the appeal fades.

    Just my opinion.
     
  24. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    And a very good opinion. Thanks, Loth.
     
  25. Mystery Meat
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    Mystery Meat Member

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    I have to disagree with this idea. Many authors who publish a first book might really try to compound on this success by trying to overdo the characteristics that got them published in the first place. Very few of them were successful in capturing the feel of the first book (and 'Chamber of Secrets' is definitely one I would count in this group).

    Those sequels that succeed do so because they were planned from the start (e.g. 'The Two Towers'). Others (such as 'Iron Angel') dramatically expanded upon the stage, themes and scope of the original.
     

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