Struck By Inspiration
Posted July 12, 2011on:
I received a message from God this morning.
The first part (He apparently writes in pieces) came this morning when my publisher sent me some images that she intended to use as the cover art for my next short story, Chasing His Own Tale 2: Struck By Inspiration. Originally it was called The Inevitable Sequel, a joke title I came up with back when I wrote the first story. As I was writing this one, though, it turned out the hero’s Muse carried a great big cane, and wasn’t shy about using it. The story is the next adventure of Author Guy as he’s trying to write his next adventure, only to be sadddled with a Muse who expects him to write a sequel to the last adventure, and Author Guy doesn’t do sequels. Gad, he sounds like me!
The second part of the Divine Mandate came this morning, when I was reading the latest blog post from the fine ladies at LTWF, which was, of course, about sequels.
I can take a hint.
‘Sequel’ is something of a dirty word to me. I always take it to be a follow-up story that is pretty much the same as the story which it follows, in terms of its characters. In that sense, I don’t do sequels. None of my main characters comes out of my stories the way they went in, and very few of my minor ones either. I’ve read many series, the plot-driven ones mostly, where the characters never seem to change from one book to the next. (I’ve also read many plot-driven series where they do.) The motivation here is to keep the series going so readers will buy more books. When you write like I do, which is to say you
stumble around in the dark carefully follow the inner logic of the characters as they grow and develop, a sequel can’t ever happen and would in fact require some sort of time-warp banana technique to make it possible. Or brain damage. The downside is that eventually you get to a point where the story stops, and you have to start a new story with new characters. I have no problem with this, but it’s not a cost-effective strategy.
A story that doesn’t force the character to grow and change isn’t a story worth reading. A follow-up story should continue to develop the characters from where they left off, not magically revert them back to where they were. One way to avoid this is by putting a great deal of time, either forward or backward, between the end of the first book and the beginning of the second. A Warrior Made starts 20 years after Unbinding the Stone ends, plus it has a larger cast of characters. (That’s one of the benefits of ensemble stories, one character’s HEA doesn’t have to be disrupted to make the next book work.) The prequel to St. Martin’s Moon, which will be called A Box of Soul if I ever get around to writing it, is set four years before the beginning of SMM, which doesn’t sound like much but has some traumatic stuff in those years. Struck By Inspiration is,well, unique.