Do…Re….Egon! (Sequel time! What makes a killer sequel?)

Damn, Egon was a dork. But on a sidenote, I think I went to college with Harold Ramis’ daughter. On another sidenote, what is it with the Ghostbusters movies making Bill Murray seem like a sex machine? Get on the scene! With the Bill Murray Sex Machine! No, no, no. Is Bill Murray strangely attractive? Charismatic, yes. I’ll even give you charming. And then I draw the line. The very firm line. If anyone wants to weigh in on this, I’d be interested.

The reason the quote today is from Ghostbusters II, is because Ghostbusters II is a sequel. And this post is about sequels. Why? Because it is October. And October is the month when I am going to begin writing the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood. And though I love to procrastinate, (like Ellen Degeneres says, “Don’t wait. Procrastinate now.”) I must not. Because when people hesitate regarding Anna, Anna haunt’s people’s nightmares. Fun little agent and editor story there. I’ll tell you sometime. It hasn’t happened to me, yet, and I don’t intend to let it. But in the spirit of Ellen Degeneres, let’s think a little bit about what makes a great sequel.

1. A sequel must be bigger, badder, better! It must make Hollywood types MUAHAHA and squeeze their lowballs until they shatter. But what does this mean?

A. Everything that was great about the first one, has to be carried over into the sequel. So if it had a great voice, great dynamics between this or that character, and tense conversations in dark rooms, the sequel should have that too. Only they should be greater! Tenser! Dynamic..ier.

B. The stakes must go up. Danger must become DANGER and passion must become Passion…with angst? Or PASSION…with doubt? Everything the hero fought to save or keep the first time around is once again in jeopardy. Only this time, maybe they really will lose it.

C. Go darker. The first book led readers into the world by the hand. Showed them what an interesting place it was, and tugged them away from any uncomfortable nastiness. Now it’s time to shove them, pull the rug out from under their feet, and leave them in the dark screaming, “Why, god?!! WHY?!!” But be careful. This is a love it hate it thing. When Harry Potter went all dark, I was interested. And yet part of me also felt that the magic was gone, and Harry and I shouldn’t see each other anymore.

D. Descriptions must be amped up. More elaborate and detailed. Backstory should be well-woven, and more revealed.

2. Character love.

A. Popular characters could make cameos. They do this more often in movies than books. But whatever. I think it works.

B. New characters. To love or hate. Or both. Not that these characters should just randomly replace the first characters. Like in the Karate Kid, where every  time Daniel gets a girlfriend, she magically disappears in the first five minutes of the next movie. “How was the prom?” Mr. Miyagi asks. “Fine,” Daniel-san says. “Until Allie told me she was in love with a football player from UCLA.” And then in part three: “When is Kumiko coming?” Mrs. Laruso asks. “Oh, she’s not,” Daniel-san says. “She got a scholarship to a dance school in Tokyo.”

What the hell was wrong with that kid? Why would no one love him?!

C. Old characters should evolve. But not change completely! More of the same, but better, as they say. After the first book, characters should be your friends. By the end of the second, they should be your fricken BFFs, and you will stand by them until the end of the series.

So, there you go. Most of these “rules” are tongue-in-cheek of course. But there is a lot to consider in a sequel. And while everybody loves series these days, beautiful, cash cows that they are, sometimes, a story just doesn’t suit it. Case in point: The sequels to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. Did she write Mists while under a trance? Or were the rest of them written by goats? Seriously. Not that I don’t own all of them.

Next time: To cliff-hang or not to cliff-hang?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *