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Friday Flix: Sequel Madness: The Sequel!

June 17, 2011

Three weeks before this entry posts, Briane Pagel posted on The Best of Everything about the Best Sequel Ever.  In my comment I promised I was going to do an entry on sequels on June 17, so here we are.

If you’re one of two people who aren’t me who followed the blog from the beginning, then you might know the very first Terrible Tips Tuesday dealt with sequels.  (Did I know this without looking it up?  Um, no.)  The gist of that post was that when dealing with a series, you can’t paint yourself into a corner because you won’t have anywhere to go in the future.  You have to always leave something unfinished or else it’s much harder to keep things moving.  As in “Star Wars” the original movie they blew up the Death Star but they didn’t defeat the Empire.  This gave George Lucas room to maneuver and create two sequels.  (Then unfortunately three prequels.)

Most of my comment to Mr. Pagel’s entry was about the two basic ways that people choose to do sequels.  And since it’s “summer” movie season and we’ll see plenty of sequels, it’s a good time to go over this.

The first way is the crappy Michael Bay way of doing it.  Which is to take the first movie and then do MORE of everything.  More explosions, more characters, more bad guys, more raunchy humor, more racist stereotypes…everything except more story.  This is why I didn’t like “Iron Man 2” as much as the first one or why I probably wouldn’t like “The Hangover 2” as much as the original either because it’s pretty much more of the same.  This doesn’t always mean the movie is terrible, just that I’m not going to like it as much as the original.

The second, usually better, way is the Epic Saga way.  That is you take your one movie that was good and you go deeper into the characters and their world.  “The Godfather Part II,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Dark Knight,” and even “Aliens” and “Terminator 2” are all examples of sequels that built on the characters and world introduced in the first one and made it more interesting the second time around.  That’s why all those movies are great instead of just “meh” like the other kind of sequels.

So if you’re writing a sequel or a series of sequels, what you need to do is not just throw more of the same at the reader but to try and go deeper and make your world more interesting.  Continue developing the characters instead of just throwing them into slightly different circumstances.  You want to keep growing the character and his/her world because that will make for better reading.

This idea is especially good for YA books like Harry Potter because you can have the characters growing up at the same time as having all these adventures, so as you go along you change the nature of the characters as they mature.  Or like in my Scarlet Knight series where I have the main character dealing with issues like losing her job, getting pregnant, and her kid dying.  (Or “dying” since it’s a comic book-type series and thus no one is ever really dead.)  In that way you keep the character growing instead of staying the same and just being tossed into different situations.

That is unless you fuck it up like the unnecessary “Matrix” sequels where they tried to add more but what they added was lame.  I’m just saying.

Next week since I’m on vacation in the wilds of western Michigan, enjoy three short stories from my collection “The Carnival Papers” (available now in print and Kindle!)  First up on Monday:  “Learning to Fly.”


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  1. The Michael Bay Way–LOLOLOL!

    BTW, totally agree The Matrix sequels, well, let’s just say they should have stopped after the first one, LOL!

  2. I think sequels are hit and miss these days. It’s great when the director or author of a project intends for sequels to tell his or her story. However, when they are obviously manufactured to squeeze out more money, then I hate it. I also hate it when sequels go bad on a franchise. I loved Spiderman and Spiderman 2. I wanted to see more of Tobey Maguire (who I think is really cute) and Kirsten Dunst. I wanted to see a powerful and beautiful story that was even better than the previous movie. Instead I got handed Spiderman 3 which was terrible.

    • For superhero sequels especially the problem is that you’ve got to work in this villain and this villain and this villain in order to sell the action figures and so forth. That sounds like the problem that’s going to plague “The Dark Knight Rises.” You can get away with 1-2 villains but when you start trying to work in more it becomes too much. The problem with Spidey 3 was it seemed they ran out of ideas. The bad guys capture Mary Jane? Again? Come on, you’ve done this twice already! It didn’t work for the Goblin and it didn’t work for Doc Ock but maybe it’ll work for you, right? Yeesh.

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