The Case For Sequels:

I hear a lot of complaining in the halls of Stephen Kingdom about sequels. Dark Tower purist squawk that King slipped Wind Through The Keyhole into the Dark Tower series.  Though, not as much as they complained when he revised the Gunslinger!  There is likewise a lot of concern about the upcoming Doctor Sleep.

I think Sequels can be a great thing.

A Few strengths of a sequel:

1. The author does not have to start from scratch building characters.  The reader already has an emotional investment in the people inhabiting the story.  Thus the Empire Strikes Back doesn’t have to give us long stretches on Tattooine, but can leap quickly to guys riding on Ton-Ton’s.  We immediately know who both of them are, their relationship and rivalry.

Consider with Doctor Sleep, King does not have to take time telling us about Danny’s phytologist, his friend Tony or what Shining is – because that work has already been done.  He is able to hone in on the story itself.

What made the second Dark Tower book so much fun for me was that a lot of the heavy lifting and background work had been done in Gunslinger.  So the story could open quickly, with the each scene.

2. The author can flesh out ideas that were only hinted at in the original story.

3. The reader gets answers to questions that were left open.  For instance, what happened to Wendy and Danny?  What is their relationship?  How did Danny’s gift of Shining affect the rest of his life?

4. Clarity.  A sequel gives the author more space to make issues even more clear.  If anyone thinks Jack was just crazy, that King wasn’t telling us about ghosts – then Doctor Sleep will make it abundantly clear that this is a ghost story!  Of course, the only person who didn’t get it the first time around was Mr. Kubrick.

5. Sequels kick the happy ending in the face.  You thought everything was dealt with, wrapped up and tied with a bow. . . but the sequel says, “not so fast, buster.  Things are not as neat and clean as Mr. King at first lead you to believe.”

King does not do a lot of sequels.  In fact, all I can think of is Black House.  I have yet to explore The Regulators, so I am not sure how to classify it in regard to Desperation.  Some would argue that his endings are so bad, he can’t pick up where he left off!  I am not one of those.  I think King has so many ideas, there is little point for himt o try and tell new stories with old characters.  Meeting new people is part of the fun.  (I’m guessing here)

Charles Dickens did not use the sequel.  Each book was complete in itself.  Like King, he was criticized for the length of his books, but at least each book told the full story on his heart.  (Now, what in the world was David Copperfield really about?)

Sometimes Hollywood has given us a sequel to their theatrical version – usually without much success.  I think the best of the King movie sequels was Pet Sematary 2.  There were several Fire Starter sequels, a Salem’s Lot sequel and a few Children of the Corn sequels.  

My Favorite Sequels:

1. The Empire Strikes Back.  It is my favorite of the Star Wars movies.
2. World Without End.  The followup to Pillars of the Earth.  It is not as strong as Pillars, but it was a joy to read.
3. Return to Cold Sassy Tree.  I liked it, event hough Olive Anne Burns died before it was finished.
4. Piercing The Darkness.  Famous Christian author, Frank Peretti wrote thsi book on the heels of his fantastic work, This Present Darkness.  Truth be told, I think Piercing the Darkness is a stronger story.
5. Toy Story 2.  I know it’s a movie – but it was better than the first.

Who has a right to write a sequel?  My wife read a sequel to Gone with the Wind. . . but it was not by Margaret Mitchell, the original author.  I said that was cheating, but she disagreed.  But think about it, it is cheating!  The author is taking someone elses characters, climbing into their heads and making them do what the original author never even thought of them doing!  Cheater –  Cheater – pumpkin eater!

As I tried to think of famous sequels, I realized: There aren’t that many that really make it big.  There are lots of series of books – Lord of the Rings and so on – but not so many squels that really grab readers.  Still, I hold out great hope for Doctor Sleep.

What’s your favorite sequel?  (Stay with books, even though I strayed)


  1. Well, okay, here goes. I hope there's enough space.

    1. The first hazard for the returning is fame.
    Yeah, I know that's from Babe, Pig in the City however it's a valid point. In every case, a sequel HAS to carry the burden of past glories to contend with, unless we're talking about Transformers or the Corn series.

    2. Some stories carry the possibility of a sequel, not others.

    This really depends on the type of story being told. A Tom Sawyer or Hobbit leave deliberate openings for a sequel by the nature of their ending (what about that Ring? What became of Huck?) Others don't by the finality of their ending, (It, Shining, a Peter S. Beagle novel I read).

    3. Even if their is room for a sequel, it might still flop.

    Case in point. Godfather II, the flashbacks worked, yet the scenes set in current day couldn't hold my attention, in fact I got bored (the irony is the flashbacks don't count as sequel, they were part of original novel).

    To be continued.


    1. You may be the only person I have EVER heard refer to "The Godfather Part II" in a negative light. I think most people generally consider it to be superior to the first one. I don't see enough difference between the two to differentiate much, personally; they're both masterpieces as far as I'm concerned.

  2. Continued from last post.

    4. Story and character have definitive structure, beginning and end.

    This is more complex. I'm a firm believer in what Jung called Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. It's really a glorified term for the Imagination and it's contents. The gist is there are two types of story, inspired and invented, both are legit, yet only inspiration can produce great art, invention can make good art at best or not at all, and it's Archetypes that determine a stories action and structure, deviate from it and you've lost the true narrative thread. Ergo, writing is not as easy as it seems.

    Inspiration, according to Jung, is a part of the Collective Unconscious (i.e. Imagination) and is just what that term implies, an unconscious process. Invention, on the other hand is conscious. A good example of the difference between inspiration and invention is Lord of the Rings vs. Sword of Shannara series.

    5. Archetypes reveal the universal in the particular.

    Another tough one but stay with me. Archetypes are a matter of psychology, yet they have universal application. Therefore, an inspired story, might illuminate a part of an individual psychology, yet it always broadens it into a more collective unconscious psychic setting outside of individual consciousness. Jung said Archetypes were collective, not individual, therefore not under the control of any one author or artist, and therefore, in the strictest sense, not subject to terms of control or ownership.

    To be concluded.


  3. Continued from last post.


    6. The storytelling tradition(With apologies to Bryant Burnette, from who's blog I cribbed this from during a way earlier discussion).

    The following is from critic and philosopher R. G. Collingwood (whose writing influenced Tolkien) and his book The Philosophy of Enchantment:

    Collingwood: Early in that century, the household…gathered round the fire and told stories…If the teller departed from the established form, someone present would break in with a protest. The interrupter would then tell the story in his own way, and the company would thrash the matter out among them, and decide who was right.

    Collingwood cont.: In calling these stories traditional, we don’t simply mean their authorship has been forgotten. We mean they constitute a social institution carefully preserved by the people, like the traditional arts of agriculture, or the handicrafts of everyday life in a peasant society. This traditional character is well attested…These stories were not “inventions” of the teller; they were traditional; and it was point of honor to abide by the tradition.

    Here's a link to the blog entry on Bryant's website were these quotes came from. there's more info in the comments section of that post than can be given here.

    Either way, that's my two cents, or three or four.


  4. My favorite sequel, I suppose, would be "Streets of Laredo" by Larry McMurtry, which is a sequel to "Lonesome Dove." It isn't AS great as that one, but it's pretty fine in its own right.

    I also really like both "Dune Messiah" and "Children of Dune" by Frank Herbert. Arthur C. Clarke did a pretty good job with "2010," also.

    It would also be hard to vote against "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." THAT'S a pretty good sequel...

  5. HA! Huck Finn, OF COURSE bryant! An example of the sequel out shining the original.

  6. Interesting enough, the ending of Huck Finn admits of at least the possibility of a sequel. Twain wrote several abortive attempts in fact, Tom Sayer Abroad, Tom Sawyer Detective etc. None of them really good, inventions instead of inspirations in other words.

    What's funny is, I'm not sure, but think I might have found the sequel, and it's a doozy. Has anyone here seen a Will Vinton film called the Adventures of Mark Twain?


  7. I read Tom Sawyer abroad. I agree with your assessment, Chris