Thursday, June 12, 2008

Romancing the Sequel...

In the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to read several sequels by several different authors. A fellow reader and I were discussing a particular sequel that finally appeared at least two years after the previous book. Technically, it was just fine. But...there was no affection for the characters.

Now I'm not talking about my personal feelings. I kind of liked the characters. But I don't think the author was very involved. Unfortunately, if the author doesn't care, it shows. I suspect that happens when too much time has elapsed between stories. After all, as writers, our lives are busy, not static. We change. If we don't take our characters along on that journey, then we lose our interest and affection for them. As the narrator for their story, we have to be involved. And if we aren't, if we're just writing their story because of fan feedback or because its time, then that passion and vibrancy is missing. Without that, it's just a bunch of words.

One writer I know wrote a sequel for a book that she despised to begin with. Why? Well she wrote the first book, sold it, and then came to the realization that she really wasn't satisfied with it. She tried unsuccessfully to pull it from the release schedule. Thoroughly disappointed with the book she moved on. Eventually, she was called on to produce the sequel as per the terms of her contract. And that was worse. With no solid foundation, she had to deal with characters that she truly disliked. It was a fight to the bitter end. Small surprise that neither book did well and fans just scratch their heads when they encounter those two books.

Another thing that happens sometimes is that a character just doesn't engage our heart. Yeah, we know that Joe's supposed to have his turn, but what if we don't really have anything to say about Joe? Sometimes Joe can be a stubborn SOB and just refuse to tell us his story. We can't make it up just because the readers are clamoring for Joe's story. I had two characters in the Mystic Valley series that I seriously planned to write books for. So far, it's a no-go. Those books might never be written. Or those characters might only be revealed through books that have other central characters. Sometimes Joe values his privacy too much to talk. Forcing a story for the sake of having that sequel doesn't reveal anything useful about Joe. And when the reader and writer walk away, there's a vague sense of dissatisfaction and incompleteness.

In a romance, more than any other type of story, the author must, must, must have great affection, if not outright love for his/her principle characters. They must engage the author so much that it's impossible to walk away without telling their story. If the narrator doesn't like them, isn't impelled to show readers how wonderful they are, then there's no point in writing, is there? Particularly in erotic romance where sex is such an integral part of the romance, love and affection have to provide the base for the story. Otherwise, the story depends more on the erotic and less on the romance.

As I write this blog, I'm in the midst of writing sequels for two series. It is my custom to read every book that I'm working on from beginning to end every Monday. One of the things I noticed about one of my current wips was that indefinable point where I suddenly engaged with the characters. Smoothing out the story required some changes, but I was pleased to see that indeed, yes, I've fallen in love not just with the main characters, but with all the entire supporting cast.

And that's when it starts to be fun.


  1. I have to say, I think my very first "second" book was better than the first. Other series since? eh. It varies. Who knows why? But it IS fun to see peeks of old friends. I love that part about writing sequels.

  2. If you're talking about your cowboys... Yummmy. I loved them all-- because you did.

  3. I always feel that if my hero cannot make me want to fall for him and if I do not want to side immediately with my heroine then the book I am wiritng is a dud. Touch wood so far...I have liked all my characters

  4. Sometimes the characters just don't want to talk to you. The story that was recently contracted as the next in the series that started with Measure of Healing was actually begun long before that story. It has taken Evan four years to tell me his story. Alejandro stepped in and said, "Write this!" Since they both are stand alones it worked.

    And I have to love my guy. If he can't make me care about him, I can't make anyone else care.

  5. I do so love a good supporting cast. I've been writing short stories and novellas lately and I miss that aspect. Time for something longer.