The Problem with Sequels

It started with a newsletter I received from an author about an upcoming release. The newest novel was the sixth in her series of books, the first of which I loved. I’d read the second and wasn’t crazy about it, so I ignored the remaining sequels. After reading this author’s email, I was glad I did. Why? Because she unraveled her original HEA (Happily Ever After) for convenience. And that’s the problem with too many sequels.

untitledIn the original book I’d read, the main character found the love-of-her-life as she neared middle age. The author took us through the entire romance as it unfolded in a terrific story that I appreciate to this day. At the end, the reader was happy for everyone, and the end should have stayed THE END, but the author either loved the characters so much she wanted to keep revisiting them, or she wanted to capitalize on the success of the first story (which was later made into a Hallmark movie) by writing sequels.

A story isn’t a story without conflict, and too often, authors take the easiest route by unraveling what they’d accomplished in their original story and then having the characters deal with that conflict as they once again struggle to obtain…the exact same resolution. A good example of this is the sequel to National Treasure. At the end of the original movie, Ben found the treasure, restored his family’s name, and won the girl. And then someone decided to make a sequel. What happened next? The family’s name had been re-tarnished, Ben and Abigail had broken up, and they had to start all over again. I hated it.

Likewise, as I read the author’s email, I discovered the character in the book I’d liked so much had lost her love in a previous story and was now starting over. I deleted the message.

For me, a good sequel isn’t one that unravels a hard-earned HEA, but one that continues the original characters’ journeys while focusing on others. That unraveling is the reason I didn’t write a sequel to River of Life, though I know what happens later, and why I’m debating whether to continue with a sequel to North of Broad (just because. I’m honestly still sick of writing) the end of which I’d realistically left open to several possibilities, though the sequel would be more poignant and meaningful.

If an author decides to unravel a character’s journey in one book to write another, they’re either doing it because the original resolution was weak and it needed to be fixed, or they’re doing it because it’s an easy way to find a plot for a subsequent novel. The first shouldn’t have been published and the second isn’t a good excuse to unravel what comes down to the reader’s satisfaction of the original HEA. Authors, feed your readers. Don’t mess with them for the sake of convenience.


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