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Sequels— Remakes or Originals?

posted in: Writing Craft | 1

Good morning everyone!

CP Bialois
CP Bialois

Have you ever sat down to read the next book in a series only to realize it’s the same story you previously read?

This question came to me while I was reading the novel, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th by Peter M. Bracke. As a huge fan of the series, I loved reading the interviews with the films’ producers, directors, actors, and more, but it was one part where they mentioned they were just remaking the same film over and over that caught my attention.

It was something I never thought of before. I could see the differences in each movie while they followed the same basic premise. To be honest, I never thought of them as remakes of the original, and I thought it’d be fun to compare the two approaches when writing sequels.

As authors, we all talk about writing stories using a formulaic system. A perfect example of this is writing romance stories. I’ve actually talked with authors that know their characters will meet on page 98 and one will fart on page 212 (I’m seriously in awe at how indepth some of our fellow authors are when planning), and they often follow the same story arcs (Think of the Writing Pyramid: Start, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Ending) with challenges at the same part. Of course, we all have our own methods that carry over to horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and so on. It’s what we’re comfortable with, so why not go with what works, right?

This is where the idea of remakes comes in.

To be honest, there are only like six original stories and we just keep putting different twists on them, but is there a point when we directly copy our previous works and they become predictable?

I guess it depends on what works for each of us.

For many, repeating what’s been successful is fine as long as we tweak some on the interactions to make it interesting. This is probably the closet to “remaking the original” and includes using the same characters with minimal changes, the same challenges (Examples in romances: The characters overcoming a struggle to be together, and in mysteries: Finding the killer, thief, blackmailer through deduction). It can also become boring to write and/or read if we take this practice to the extreme.

geralt / Pixabay

Despite the risk of “going stale” or being considered “stock”, it’s a difficult methodology to break as we’ve usually had success previously and it’s easy for us to crank out the words. What’s better for a writer than to sit down and know writing a book can be so easy? At times, it certainly beats us smacking our heads on our desks trying to break our muse free.

On the flip side, we sometimes love to rail against the status quo and try to take our stories in a different direction. While it sounds grand and exciting, trying to keep the same characters fresh and as new as possible can be a very difficult task. Often, doing so requires some whining, begging, and chugging lots of coffee.

Some of the best ways to change things up is by unexpectedly killing characters, have them separate and begin living separate lives, or introducing new characters continue along or to play off of our original cast. Attempting to carve a new path for our beloved characters comes with challenges and pitfalls for us as well. Typically, they drive us insane as we try to figure out how to accomplish something that’ll work within the scope of the story.

The funny thing is, despite being touted as two separate styles, they share a great deal of the same methodology to varying degrees. In the end, it may come down to our own perspectives.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Which method do you prefer and/or use? What draws your interest to your preferred choice?

Until next time, let your imaginations fly!


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One Response

  1. Ed Ireland
    | Reply

    I think the best way to continue a story as in a series, is to create a world that grows a little bigger in each book. If you can move your characters into a new area, theoretically, new adventures wait there. New adventures mean new villains, new characters to meet and yes, old characters to get rid of.
    Penny Marshall once said that for her show Laverne & Shirley, all they did was rewrite old I Love Lucy scripts. It didn’t make the show boring. It was a newer twist on an old story. The Flintstones were The Honeymooners set in the stone-age. But once the old shows were exhausted, they had to write new scenarios and events. Sometimes, keeping with familiar writing will force you into new ideas.
    Did that make sense? Or am I just too damned hungry to think straight?

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