Tag Archives: Hamlet

Sequel? Sure, But Where to Start?

When I think about sequels, the first thing that comes to mind is this movie. I can’t help it.


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when green screen tech had yet to be invented…

Let’s face it. Most sequels suck. If anything, they strive to emulate the original film too much and fail to stand on their own. Many of them never needed to be made in the first place.

But then there’s The Empire Strikes Back, which, in my not-so-humble opinion, was a far better film than Star Wars: A New Hope and is unquestionably the finest addition to the saga. It added depth to the villainous character of Darth Vader, forwarded the idea that the Sith Lord was a slave to the Dark Side as opposed to being its master, introduced the iconic Yoda to the franchise, turned the developing romance subplot on its ear, presented arguably the most famous struggle in the series by initially polarizing Luke and Vader and then revealing their bond, made us concerned about landing our starships inside giant worm-thingies, and left us with some quotes that will probably be floating around American Pop Culture as long as there’s an America that pretends to have culture.

The latter, of course, is most impressive when viewed in the light of how quotable the first… err, fourth film was. (Hell, A New Hope is still the first film even if it isn’t the first episode.) My personal favorite quote from the entire franchise is still: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

So how did screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (Lucas wrote the story but not the screenplay) and director Irvin Kershner manage to follow up what is among the most popular films in movie history with a sequel of superior quality?

That’s the question I’m pondering right now as I’m working on the sequel to The Wolf of Descarta.

Movies have the obvious advantage of the visual spectrum. The film doesn’t have to explain what a Stormtrooper looks like to the audience. It merely presents an image:


Once you go Dark Side, you never go back? 

The film sequel presents the same image with a bit more flair (or humor, in this case) for those who are already familiar with it:

Apparently, this is a thing...

Apparently, this is a thing…

A novel, on the other hand, has to present the image through descriptive text. The more world building, the more descriptive text is required. But how much of that description is required in a sequel? And this question is just a drop in the bucket. What about back story? Character development? The inner workings of a previously published speculative universe? How much should be rehashed?

I ask this because I, first and foremost, am guilty of not reading book series in order. I’m usually able to figure out what I’ve missed, but I’ve heard the following gripes from fellow fans who have picked up other authors’ book series:

“Book 3 was mostly a retelling of books 1-2 with a little bit of plot advancement.”

“Book 2 had so much filler that I just kind of skipped around.”

“I wasn’t able to get a copy of the first book, so I had no idea what was going on for half of this thing! I had to wikia what happened!”

“Yeah, you can basically just skip books 5-7.”

“…and then this character came out of nowhere, and I had no idea who he was! I checked the first book, and it turns out he was, in fact, mentioned quite a few times. I guess I just kind of forgot about him.”

Do you see my conundrum here? To retell or not to retell? That is the question.

You know damn well the graveyard scene doesn't go with that allusion! O why am I so unrecognizable without this skull?

You know damn well the graveyard scene doesn’t go with that allusion! O why am I so unrecognizable without this wretched skull?

Film relies primarily on dialogue to both advance the plot and reveal characterization. This might seem like a limitation compared to devices like internal monologue in prose, but it also eliminates the problem of retreading familiar territory and wasting the reader’s time.

I guess my point is that when it comes to novels and screenplays, we’re comparing apples and oranges. The Empire Strikes Back can’t serve as a model sequel because film sequels eliminate many of these novel issues (har har) by means of process.

So, uh… Anybody read any books lately that were sequels and actually better than the original story? I think the last one I read was The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander.

I was in fifth grade. -.-

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Filed under Fantasy, My Writing, Rants, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

When Wisdom Fails: The Story of a Tooth

Angry Tooth

The bristles pass me by again.

The Incisors get all the action. The property values in the extreme back of the mouth have really diminished of late; it’s like there just isn’t enough room for all of us in here. While the front choppers with their beach front property are doused in minty flouride, I’m back here in the ghetto marinating in Java Monster and Coke Zero, the remnants of the Knight’s pathetic attempts to balance poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle with his dream of looking like his fictionalized version of himself.

I lack advancement.

I should have been evicted years ago, the Molars tell me. But they’re no better than me. They shirk their duties, letting food particles pass over them and sticking me with all the real work. It’s worse. Those bastards can chew while I can only gnaw–they always leave me encrusted and unfulfilled.

Does no one appreciate my wisdom?

After a few years of this, anyone would crack, right? I thought that maybe if I cut like the Incisors, those bristles might come my way and clean up the neighborhood. I mean sure, there’s the occasional dousing of Listerine, but it’s like sweeping the streets with acid rain. So when I finally broke, I made myself hard, sharp. Steak knives have nothing on me. And now that the Knight has actually cut some weight, my jagged edge is right up against the inside of his cheek.

Swallow. Do you feel me now? Bite down. Do you taste blood? Try giving that lecture over Hamlet with that iron taste in your throat. You deserve this. You didn’t even notice when I splintered off, when my crown burst! How could you be so cruel? I mean, I am a part of you, after all.

I am part of you whether you want me or not.

Wait! What’s that mirror doing back here? You… You didn’t! A dentist? You vile betrayer! Molars, are you really going to let those needles get past you? Damn you! Don’t you dare numb that cheek! No, wait! I’ve changed my mind! I can deal with the ghetto! So what if I can’t keep up with the Incisors? Please let me stay! I can change! I’ll get some counseling, file myself down, live as half a tooth! Please, please don’t make me go!

“Come on,” mutters the Dentist. “You don’t really want to stay in there, do you?”

But the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will! And makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of–

“Got it!”

And the Knight somehow manages though the Novocain, the last thing I shall ever hear:

“Goodnight, Sweet Prince.”


Filed under Rants, Reading, Writing