I used to think fiction writers who wrote sequels were lazy. It’s a harsh statement, I know, but I often thought it. I assumed that the prospect of creating new and interesting characters proved daunting, so their thought process was to rehash tried and true personalities and put them in a different conflict? Voila! A new book on the market. Boy was I wrong!
As a first-time fiction author creating the characters in my soon-to-debut novel, A Picture of Pretense, I labored over the nuance of each character’s voice. I viewed the picture reel in my head as my characters wove their way through my story. I chose their clothing, hairstyles, drink choices, and dinner selections as studiously as I do my own.
When I finished my novel, it was as though I lost something dear to me. For almost a year I nourished every day with my fictional family, and then the dinner table sat empty. Have you ever read an enjoyable book and been sad when you finished it—not because the story was sad, but because you would miss spending time with the characters? If so, you know what I am talking about. However, the loss felt amplified because they are my family. They are me.
As for being easier to write a sequel using previous characters, I had that wrong, too! Having put so much into the development of each, I found doing them justice in another book a formidable exercise. The prospect of possibly spoiling my fictitious family just so I could spend more time with them seemed selfish. But four months later, here I am. I have just finished my first sequel. And I find myself right back where I started.
I have newfound respect for James Patterson and Michael Bennett, Janet Evanovich and Stephanie Plum, Dan Brown and Robert Langdon. After multiple incarnations, Michael, Stephanie, and Robert remain fun, interesting, and colorful. And I’m quite sure each one of them sits daily at the dinner table of the author’s mind.
So, I set my table. The question is: Who will I invite to dinner next?