Sequels Pt. 1

You know what’s the worst? Sequels and trilogies. I’m so sick of them. I remember a time when you could pick up a book at the library, read it, and finish it. As in, the story was over when you ran out of pages. Now EVERYTHING is a series. And you don’t even get a resolution worth diddly.

This book is such a beat-down I couldn't even try

Such a beat-down I didn’t even try sequels “Medium Women” or “Venti Women”

Here’s a scenario I frequently: I’m reading a book and really enjoying it. But a sense of dread is building: I’m three quarters done. And I don’t think I’m close to the end. There’s no way the author could create a satisfying conclusion in the last quarter. I only just met the love interest, like, three chapters ago. Now I’m fifty pages from the end. Forty. Oh, shit, I’m holding the last pages in my fingers and my thumb is practically touching my index finger. There’s nothing leftandIwantaresolutionand

Coming soon: the thrilling filler book in the trilogy!

Damn it! Come ON. All you had to do was shoot the badguy in the face and everyone could have had a happy ending. Except for the badguy.

Look, I liked your characters enough to read ONE book. The law of diminishing returns says that the longer you draw this out, the more the author becomes the antagonist.

This comes down to audience expectations and what publishers want.

Sellingout.jpg

Nice cash grab, Tolkein. Way to sell out.

Audiences right now expect for there to be a Harry Potter and the Next Class Year. Hunger Games established in YA dystopian novels the could-have-been-one-book-but-ok-let’s-deal-with-the-whole-systemic-problem trilogy model, I think.

Don’t get me wrong. There were already series out there. I grew up on wanting the next Animorph book or Nancy Drew or whatever. But no one read The Hardy Boys and the Secret of the Old Mill, got the end, and thought “I can’t wait to find out if Tom Hardy and his brother Tanya Harding survive in the next book!”

If Tolstroy wrote today, there'd be War and Peace 2: Dawn of Rising Unrest and War and P3ace

If Tolstroy wrote today, there’d be War and Peace 2: Dawn of Rising Unrest and War and P3ace

So I’m forced to ask at the end of a lengthy post: what happened to concision, people? Must I skim through a middle book that amounts to little more than “Screw Flanders” repeated over and over?

All that said, I’d love to have the royalties from a trilogy. Do as I say, not as I do, people.

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Read This: Author Patricia C. Wrede

This post will probably be the first in a series maybe.

When talking about a beloved author, it’s not uncommon to chastise others for not having read that author’s whole bibliography. I won’t do that. I know there are too many books out there for you to have read all of them.

But really missing out if you haven’t.

Patricia C. Wrede is, by grand margins, one of my favorite authors of all time. It began with my mother reading me Dealing with Dragons. It took classic castles and dragon and enchanted forest books and made them wonderful and hilarious.

I LOVE her characters. The Raven Ring is a study in making you fall in love with characters within a short span of time.

Wrede does something else with her stories that seems so lacking sometimes. Her books are so damn fun. I could pin down the whys and hows right here… but that’s actually what this blog is often about. So, just know that her stories created the joy in me.

Exactly the way aspiring writers like us want to.

The Mary Sue

A Mary Sue character, for those unfamiliar, is an idealized character in a story. It’s often a stand-in for who the author wishes himself/herself to to be. And importantly, real consequences don’t really apply to them.

CONSEQUENCES

Writers and critics alike tend to look down upon the Mary Sue, and for good reasons. The MS is all about wish fulfillment. Who doesn’t want to imagine themselves as The One, that person that’s special? The unique fella who discovers he’s actually a lost prince, or has a secret superpower?

Sue. Mary Sue.

Sue. Mary Sue.

Hell, I’m no different.

Any day now I expect an attractive young person to approach me and say, “This Starbucks was actually built as a test to see who could idle their time in the most ineffective manner possible. You’ve passed that test, and are therefore the Last Starfighter And Supreme Makeout Artist.”

So is wish fulfillment inherently bad? Well, no, not when it’s done right. For example, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived. “The Boy Who Lived”… they practically nickname him “The Mary Sue.” But they’re wonderful, beloved books.

Contrarily, why does the ancient, beautiful vampire desire the bland Mary Sue? Just ’cause. It’s inexplicable and there’s no ‘cost,’ for lack of a better word.

Why is Harry Potter different? Because his parents died. And magic. And it’s as much a curse as a blessing. And REASONS. Hell, Harry even asks “Why me?” and gets unpleasant answers all the time.

Picture: Neo

Picture: Neo

Harry’s still a Mary Sue, but a darned good one in a darned good series.

RELATABILITY

The other complaint is that the character isn’t relatable. I have less of a problem with this, mostly for reasons you can find here and here. Often, people who say they want “relatable” really mean they want to read reflections of their own flaws and the conflicts they face. Pain, more often than not.

Personally, I’d rather read about the Mary Sue. But moving on…

OUT OF CONTROL CHALLENGES

There’s another problem with the Mary Sue. One for the author, rather than the audience. The problem of out-of-control ramping goals.

With each successive… success, the writer has to find a new challenge for our walking deus ex machina. “Well, he saved the city by discovering he could fly at the end of the last book. What power does he need to suddenly have at the end of this book to make it fun?” And the challenge has to be bigger and bigger with every story.

Example: I LOVE the Mass Effect games. The story is about the very first human to join an elite space police-force.

Next up: Balancing the checkbook!

Next up: Balancing the checkbook!

In the first game you have to save the citadel, the galatic hub of civilations. By the last game, you’re tasked with saving the entire galaxy.

Now there’s talk of a sequel.

About what, exactly? Saving the galaxy again? The universe? You blew your load a little early, Bioware.

Personally, I love me a good Mary Sue story. But unless you’ve considered the consequences, your story is going to be considered fluff by some people.

Give your protagonist consequences, some relatable characteristics, and if you’re planning on continuing the adventure, don’t write yourself in a corner.

 

Observations at a Starbucks

I write at a starbucks near my home. Mostly because I enjoy being a cliche’. Also because the baristas are nice to me and know me as “The guy who never buys anything, but puts something in the tip jar anyway.”

But being surrounded by people stokes my creative side. I find it easier to write in a busy environment.

Or, perhaps more accurately, I find stupid things on my computer FAR more distracting when I’m alone.

Some things about my starbucks:

  • Wedding planners meet with clients here alot. Does starbucks cater weddings? Take note, coffee execs.
  • There is a inverse correlation with how much I enjoy a book  and the chance someone will come over to me and gush about it or start a conversation about it.No matter how much I enjoy Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain, a person with a bare ring-finger will only start a conversation with me if they see me reading The Magicians by Lee Grossman. I have major issues with that book.
  • A certain Persian barista has yet to ask me about my time-travelling book