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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Doing it again (sequels)

   
Author Topic: Doing it again (sequels)
RyanB
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I rewatched Prep and Landing and its sequel with my wife last night and it got me to thinking about the trouble with sequels. They're notoriously hard to pull off.

The plot of the first movie is simple but structurally sound. An elf is tired of his job and wants a promotion, but he doesn't get it. In the end he gets an even better promotion but turns it down because he's learned to appreciate his job.

The plot of the second movie is much better. There are multiple threads that weave together and give a great resolution at the end. It's complex and has twists and revelations.

Yet, the first Prep and Landing is much better.

The reason it works is because they created this fun world with lots of references to Santa mythology and American culture. The sequel expands on this world and yet it's not as fun.

It seems to me there's an intricate difference between going deeper into a world and it becomes more fun because you like exploring this world and the situation where a novelty wears off because it was only fun the first time.

And that's my theory on why movie sequels often fail, yet book trilogies are so common.

Thoughts?

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extrinsic
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Sequels, serials, oversized narratives separated into installments--part of the appeal is continuation of a milieu familiar to audiences. The appeal for a writer might be less heavy lifting event, character, and setting development needed. Pulling off serialization of a franchise, though, depends on new and surprising developments.

How successful franchises maintain audience interest is worth studying. Generalizations. One way is to show how time and space have moved through the fundamentals: events, characters, and settings. Subtle yet profound changes distinguish any given installment from another. Another way, keep an overall sufficiently suitable dramatic complication unsatisfied but satisfy each installment's central, if less major but more pressing, dramatic complication. Another way, bring in fresh events, characters, and settings, end or "kill off" old ones, and drill deeper into prior ones that have greater meaning for the installment at hand. Or all of the above.

Other methods, perhaps subtler yet, might open with a simple plot, progress to complex a plot, and maybe return to a simple plot or a yet more complex plot. Not simple in the sense of simpleminded, but in the Aristotlean sense of a straightforward conflict resolution type structure. Complex in the same Aristotlean sense of abrupt, profound revelation, reversal, or both, turns.

Further, an installment may progress as a direct conflict resolution type, artfully detour into a revelation or reversal type, then end on a satisfying resolution. That organization direction can hold an overall dramatic complication unsatisfied yet satisfy for the installment.

In other words, summing up, structure, which challenges writers. That film, stage, and written word narratives may not fully realize structure's importance is a frailty of the composition form and a natural consequence of emphasizing aesthetics over structure. On the other hand, perhaps another emphasis serves audience appeal purposes, whether that emphasis be film's spectacle, stage's appeals of tradition, or written word's personal intimacy.

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RyanB
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
How successful franchises maintain audience interest is worth studying.

I agree. It seems many trilogies have tell one story and the first novel tells the first part of that story. Many movies, OTOH, tell a story, and then try to tell a second story in the sequel. I think this latter proposition is more difficult.

But Shrek did it successfully, I think. Others have as well (Toy Story). Others fall somewhere in between success and failure. That's where Prep and Landing falls in my opinion.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by RyanB:
I rewatched Prep and Landing and its sequel with my wife last night and it got me to thinking about the trouble with sequels. They're notoriously hard to pull off.

The plot of the first movie is simple but structurally sound. An elf is tired of his job and wants a promotion, but he doesn't get it. In the end he gets an even better promotion but turns it down because he's learned to appreciate his job.

The plot of the second movie is much better. There are multiple threads that weave together and give a great resolution at the end. It's complex and has twists and revelations.

Yet, the first Prep and Landing is much better.

The reason it works is because they created this fun world with lots of references to Santa mythology and American culture. The sequel expands on this world and yet it's not as fun.

It seems to me there's an intricate difference between going deeper into a world and it becomes more fun because you like exploring this world and the situation where a novelty wears off because it was only fun the first time.

And that's my theory on why movie sequels often fail, yet book trilogies are so common.

Thoughts?

Funny. I've never watched the second Prep and Landing all the way through, but, from your description I'd have targeted a different reason why it didn't work as well.

Could it be that they tried to stuff too much plot into the short format? Prep and Landing is only a half-hour long as I recall. If you want to have a little fun with the milieu you can't also tell a complex story in that length of time.

Just a thought.

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RyanB
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I thought about this some more and here's my conclusion.

The reason Shrek and Toy Story continue to work is the characters. Shrek and Donkey are compelling enough that we'll follow them long after the novelty of "ogre in fairytale land" wears off. Woody, Buzz and the crew work similarly.

Lanny and Wayne just aren't as compelling, so they can't drive a second story solely on their characterization or dynamic between their characters.

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Meredith
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Well, that could certainly be part of it, too.
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extrinsic
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Shrek and Toy Story franchises modify their central dramatic complication in subsequent installments as well as deepening event, character, and setting development.
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RyanB
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quote:
Originally posted by Meredith:
Well, that could certainly be part of it, too.

I didn't mean to downplay your thoughts. As you said, you haven't watched it all the way through. I think you can mess up a short story by making the plot too complex, but I don't think that's the case here.

I think the second plot was beautiful, much better than the first one. But the novelty was gone. "This is so tinsel" and "frostbite" don't have the same magic. And you can't just add more novelty.

But they did some of the things extrinsic suggested. There are new characters, new and surprising developments, new conflict. And thus the result was ... better than average ... maybe.

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Robert Nowall
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"...wheel turnin' round and round..."

In my own, unbroken-by-actually-selling-something career, I've found it downright impossible to write about a character once I've put the character through the wringer once. I mean, I have ideas for sequels, but they either (a) don't involve the original cast, or (b) just don't get far off the ground.

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Reziac
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And I write nothing but sequels, because my universe's environment has become richer over time and presents more opportunity, and I don't currently have interests elsewhere. And I think my later books are better, too. [Smile]
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