17 September 2012

Too, Too Many Sequels

I’ve been thinking a bit about how a person writes a sequel or trilogy or even a series.

My children and I have been reading the first three of the Harry Potter series together.  After having read all seven, going back to re-read the first ones has been an eye-opener.  There are so many little details in the beginning of the series that become big details later on, that my brain fries a little bit trying to fit all the pieces together.  How does a person decide that it will be important in the first book to introduce a rat that will be important in the third book and who in the third book will accrue a debt to someone that will be called in in the seventh book?  And do this all before the stories are written!

See?  Even the sentence is convoluted?  

And things like that happen through the series that serve to boggle my mind.  Perhaps to others, whose thought processes are less scattered than mine, it seems a simple thing to catalogue and maintain all those details.  But to me, it’s maddening.  It’s distracting.  It’s enough to make me crazy.

It’s enough to have stopped me from ever successfully having written a sequel.

I have two series planned out.  And now I’ve just gotten myself into a third.  I wrote the fatal sentence that condemned my latest book to having a sequel and I cringed.  I knew all along it was a possibility that I’d have more to tell in the story, but I sincerely hoped I could keep it to a single, perfect, book.  (Are you snorting in derision along with me?  Perfect book, indeed.)

After reading a novel by Robin McKinnley (Sunshine, for any of you who are interested in the title.) that I thought ended with a lead in to a second book -- A second book which Author-of-the-world McKinnley never intends to write -- Ms. McKinnley said something to the effect that she was at the mercy of her muses.  Her muse may or may not decide that a second book must be written and it must be written today.  Or, more likely, it will take her someplace completely different and her fans will just have to deal with the fact that they’ll never know what happens to Rae and Con.

In a way, that willingness to let those characters die or live in the minds of their readers, unfinished... it’s liberating.  It allows each reader to finish the story the way they want.  It allows the authoress to move on to something else that interests her.  

Sometimes, the open ended non-ending works beautifully.  Take, for instance, Lowis Lowry’s The Giver.  The reader is left in suspense of exactly what happens.  Do they die?  Do they arrive at their destination?  Do they win?  Do they lose?  But that suspense is part of what makes the book so compelling and so well written. (I’m tactfully not saying that Ms. Lowry went one to write sequels to The Giver to preserve my train of thought, so don’t ask about them.)

In another way, leaving the adventures undescribed irritates the jakers out of me because I want more!  I want to know what happens!  I want a tidy ending!  I NEED CLOSURE!

Does anyone else have opinions about this they’d like to share?  Does it matter to the populace in general when an author leaves the readers hanging?

I ask because I’m thinking of doing the same thing... of just writing about how the adventures started, and then not taking it further.  I know what many of their adventures are, but does that necessarily mean I must divulge what I know?  Aren’t some hints better than a lengthy reprisal?  Sometimes?


Becca said...

So, first of all, I *so* hear you on Harry Potter. I mean, the fact the Peeves breaks the vanishing cabinet in book 2??? Little things like that make me go "WHOA! She knew where this thing was going all. along??!!" Amazing.
As far as tying up all your loose ends in a nice, tidy knot. Hm. I think you have two conundrums here. A. Do I not finish, and drive my reader's crazy? Or B. Does my writing deteriorate so pathetically and my desperate attempt to please all readers leave me with such a terrible finish that my readers grab the entire series and toss it into the dumpster, with relish? (See also: Twilight series.) So, as always, I say with writing: do what you want. It's your book. If people don't like it, they can write their own. And sometimes it's fun to leave people frustrated. Just for kicks. ;)

Mandi said...

Yay for kicks.

And giggles.