by Renée J. Lukas
When readers love characters, they want more of them. They may wish there was a sequel. After receiving several notes about my novel, Hurricane Days, it seemed that a sequel was in order. There were comments from readers who wanted to know “What was up with Adrienne? What happened in the year before the ending? And did the two finally make it? Or maybe they shouldn’t have made it.”
Here’s the tricky part: A sequel, by its very nature, is a new story. You can’t rehash what was good about the original. How many times have you heard people say the sequel wasn’t as good as the original? It’s usually because there was nothing new to say in the story.
Since I love film, I thought about film sequels when I was writing the sequel to my novel, Hurricane Days, titled In Her Eyes. I kept some things in mind about movie sequels that worked, and those that didn’t. What I concluded was that a good sequel should a) tell a new story, b) feature the characters that the audience first fell in love with, and c) be satisfying on its own, not a cheap annex of an existing story.
Aliens, The Empire Strikes Back and the Harry Potter series all have some things in common. First, they developed the main characters more. Who can forget Han and Leia getting cozier in the second film? They also introduced new characters who added more interest to the series: Bill Paxton’s neurotic character (“game over, man!”) in Aliens, Yoda in Empire Strikes Back (“there is no try, only do”), and a host of new characters in nearly every new Harry Potter story—from Moaning Myrtle, the ghost who likes to hang out in the girls’ restroom; to Cedric Diggery, the handsome shining star who promptly got squashed in The Goblet of Fire. Sorry to spoil it for those who didn’t see that film. In all fairness, it’s shown practically every weekend. But sorry anyway. Last but not least, these sequels deepen our understanding of the original story’s themes (the Force, anyone?), OR they are equally entertaining (“Get away from her, you bitch!”— Aliens).
A strong sequel, at its core, should have something new to say. How many times has a sequel felt like a movie studio was just trying to make more money and more action figures and lunch boxes? By the way, do they still make lunch boxes? Or am I dating myself? Back in my day, we had clunky metal boxes with big handles that were heavier than any lunch we had inside them. Anyway, how many times have you felt that the sequel was unnecessary to start with?
At their worst, a bad sequel can ruin the legacy of the original characters, which is why some are rarely mentioned or shown again on TV: Grease II, Arthur II, and any Terminator after the first two that didn’t feature Linda Hamilton, because, c’mon, Linda Hamilton.
So, for those of you who were invested in the characters of Robin and Adrienne in Hurricane Days, I can assure you that you’ll still be able to enjoy them, AND you’ll learn new things about them. In fact, In Her Eyes offers a unique chance to go inside the mind of the character you never knew as well, Adrienne, and get her perspective. After all, as the writer, I have to keep it interesting for myself, or I wouldn’t want to revisit my characters each day as I write the new book. That’s why you’ll find more than a few shocking revelations in In Her Eyes.
As a general rule of thumb, if I start a new day of writing, wondering what happens next, it’s probably a good sign that I can keep readers on edge, too. If you’re a writer who isn’t interested in your own story, you’ve got to give it a shot of adrenaline; otherwise, readers won’t be interested, either. Remember, as you write your sequel, throw in some surprises, stay true to your original story, and leave the rest up to your readers.
Happy writing and happy holidays!