The Short Story Sequel and Me

Dinner Scene from 'Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.'

Dinner Scene from 'Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom.'
As I’m talking sequels ‘The Temple of Doom’ has to have a mention. Chilled monkey brains anyone?

Sequels are always a challenge because they have something to live up to. A short story sequel is no exception. The reader expects the original characters to appeal to them in the same way as they did previously.  They also expect them to have grown.  Saying that, sequels have their advantages,  particularly when it comes to short stories.  A sequel allows the writer to add layers to a character and expand their horizons by giving them a new setting or life situation.

When it comes to books, I have noticed that titles aimed at children and teenagers are often released as part of a series. Think Harry Potter, The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games.  Does this indicate that young people have a greater capacity for multiple adventures?  Or is it just a stretching of the story telling process, seizing the opportunity to make money from parents?  I would say a mixture of both.

There is also a market among older readers for sprawling family sagas.  Barbara Taylor Bradford is the mistress of this particular kind of craft where a tangle of secrets, relationships gone wrong and a quest for some kind of rags to riches glory usually takes place.  Yes, I’ve dipped my toe in the grandiose world of ‘money talk’ and ‘sex sells’ but found it wasn’t for me.  As one heroine grows old and fades into the background, another all too similar ‘strong woman’ carries on the baton. Such bulky, convoluted tales can be repetitive and lacking in real emotional content.

So, it’s important to get a sequel right.  Even film makers struggle with the concept.  Sequels are so often forgettable.  I confirmed this when trying to think of any that had left a lasting impression.  Only ‘Aliens’ and ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ came to mind.  ‘Aliens’ works because the original film ‘Alien’ is stripped bare, using one terrifying creature and zoning in on the raw fear of its victims.  Such a close study leaves room for a bigger picture to emerge.

‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ is effective due to a punchy start, a lot of creepy-crawly humour and the strength of the main character. It’s also quite different from the opener in the series: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.  The love interest has changed, there’s a cute sidekick and the setting is new.  The successful sequel is a blend of the familiar and the surprising.  If done well it can compliment the first in a series and become a part of the overall puzzle.

So, as I put pen to paper I should bear in mind that the key to writing a good sequel is deciding whether it should be written at all.  There must be something left to say.  The success of the first installment does not guarantee the success of a second.  I think I’m safe enough with my short story sequel. The original is a little exposed piece and fairly brief in length with a central character calling out for further adventures. I think the reason I have never published it is because it awaits completion through part 2. I’m going to have fun finding the happy ending!

Got your own story to tell?  K. S. Moore will be teaching a Short Story Workshop called ‘Story Wise’ in Carrick-on-Suir this October.  For more details click here.

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The Short Story Sequel and Me.


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