Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sequels . . . Love 'em or Hate 'em

Over at Word Wenches, seven Romance authors discuss how and why they write sequels.  
My contribution:

What's written in the pages of any book is only part of the whole story.  There's worlds of delving and spinning, working and loving going on outside the scenes that land in Chapters One to Thirty-two.  I think we all feel these stories buzzing and nudging at the edges of books, begging to be told. 

And onward over here.


  1. Christine11:15 AM

    I personally love sequels, or books with connecting characters, as long as the sequel isn't an opportunity for the writer to completely destroy characters or relationships that I have come to love in previous books. One of the things I love most about your books is noticing the tiny details you have seeded in your books: the chess set and its origins, little glimpses into Adrian's history put in as offhand dialogue, making the connections between the books and the relationships.

    I also love that the Doyle of the first book I read is the same Doyle I will read about the next. He may be older or younger, married or single, in disguise or not but the core of who he is and his values come through in every circumstance.
    My biggest grief is to emotionally invest in a couple and have an author break them up etc. in order to create fodder for a sequel and "keep the excitement."

    One movie I loved was "Miss Congeniality" so I was crushed when I saw the sequel where the hero of that movie is written off as cruel to the heroine within the first five minutes. I invested in a hero that is essentially written off as a jerk (to make an inferior sequel) and subsequently much of the pleasure of the first movie is spoiled for me.

    My greatest joy in reading is when an author is skilled enough (as you are)to create an entire world where I know stepping into it and reading about the people in it, no matter who they are, will be exciting, engrossing and by the end wholly satisfying.

  2. I'm with Christine when it comes to series and serialized fiction. If I'd lived during the Victorian age, I would have been standing outside the bookshop (as fans of Harry Potter do today) waiting for the next number of Dickens's latest novel. I cut my teeth on series fiction -- Louisa May Alcott, Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, Thornton W. Burgess, L.M. Montgomery--the list goes on and on. Now it's not just books, but good television series like Buffy and Deadwood.

    I can't tell you how reassuring it was to learn that writers as talented as the Word Wenches don't map things out in advance. As someone who is playing with her first story, I've thought my inability to do that was a major failing. I'm learning about the characters as I go, and they keep doing stuff I wasn't expecting, including bailing me out of situations I thought were going nowhere. The downside is I can tell I'll need to massively rewrite the earlier chapters or get rid of them altogether because the characters aren't who I thought the were. I have a dreadful memory; I would be the kind of author who kept spreadsheets.

  3. Hi Christine --

    One of the reasons I love sequels -- well, I'm writing one so naturally I'm fond of the idea -- is the way you can develop a character over time.

    The hero and heroine roles are wonderful. It's what I come to Romance genre FOR. But I have to admit the secondary roles give you a lot more freedom.

    In particular about the chess set . . .
    I say lots of times that I didn't intend to do this or that and I didn't know this or that till it was time to write it.

    But when I wrote that chess scene, I knew the set had been in a French prison.

  4. Hi Annie --

    Am I right in this? Didn't American fans of Dickens crowd the dock in New York waiting to grab the latest installment hot off the boat, yelling at the seamen, asking what happens next?

    The 'rewriting the early chapters' because the 'characters aren't who I thought they were' is real common. I can be most of the way through a manuscript and still waiting to 'hear' the character's voice properly in my head.

    Only thing to do is just forge onward, I guess.

    That you recognize the problem means you're halfway to solving it, says I, hoping it's true.

  5. Yes, that's right. The most famous instance of this is Old Curiosity Shop. Evidently, readers were so worried about Little Nell (and quite right, too!), they cried "did Little Nell live?" to the sailors. I always find that especially poignant, because it reminds me that loved ones often didn't find out about a "real" death until months later.

    When we lived in Philadelphia, the park across from our apartment had a statue of Dickens with Nell sitting at his feet. When I saw it, I knew I was in the right place.

    I love that you knew the chess set came from a French prison when you wrote TSL. Gives me chills.

  6. While we're on the subject of sequels, any idea when you might post a tiny excerpt from Black Hawk? *g*

  7. Hi Annie --

    Heh heh. I will post some excerpts. I do want to wait a bit, though, so we're closer to publication.

    AND, I want to do it in the galley stage so I have the exact wording. Best most polished work only. *g*

  8. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Sometimes your references to related stories are too oblique -- I would love to see more of Robert and Annique somewhere and had hoped it would be in The Black Hawk. Don't make me resort to fan fiction. :-)

  9. Hi Anon --

    You know, emotionally, I agree with you. I come to the end of a book and I don't want to put those characters away. I want to see them again.

    But I have to be true to the book I'm writing. Unless those characters belong in that new book -- unless they have an organic place there -- they distract from the story.

    I will try to put more of those oblique references in, just to show everybody is well and happy.