author C.C.Cole's blog

Friday, January 6, 2012

On Prequel Pain

"Star Wars IV:  A New Hope"

"Star Wars I:  The Phantom Menace"

The most popular fiction often is not easily defined as to why so many “hook” the story.  A combination of talent, timing, and exposure somehow explodes amongst the population into household names, as we’ve seen in books, blockbuster films, and books-to-films. 

I’ve written previously how I learned to sympathize with Hollywood more than I used to regarding sequels when I wrote one of my own.  It isn’t easy to balance a re-wind vs. new material, hoping the audience will see it favorably.  As I continue to complete the four novellas, I don’t deny the element of doubt that hits me on occasions, thinking, “What if my readers hate this?”

A few readers asked me about considering a prequel to the Gastar novellas.  While as a writer, I sit and mull over just about everything, but I never thought much about formally writing the history of the Great War in Gastar, that brought forth Shevata and her fellow child soldiers in a separate novel.  How far does one need to go to tell a story backwards?

The challenges of prequel-telling are profound, as I believe our minds are trained in a linear-time fashion to expect what happens next, instead of what happened before.  While a history enriches a story, how much detail is required before saturation?  Also, there’s detailing a history inside the story and there’s writing the history separately.  While both require careful crafting, as a new author I find moving forward to be a more natural evolution of storytelling.

Does this mean that prequels aren’t worth the time?  No.  The readers always decide, and I don’t believe stories should be discounted without reading them.   But to back peddle poses an extra challenge for the writer because many stories lock in readers to the lead character(s), who are usually not part of their own history. 

New authors, if you’re writing prequels, tweet about it to us.  My own wariness about creating them myself doesn’t limit my appreciation of the many talented writers out there.  Go for it.

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