Sequins: more and badder villains

A friend put up a meme about the inherent logical conflict any really good book causes: you don’t want it to end – but you want to keep reading to the end.

His comment was ‘make sure there are lots of sequels.’

Ah. Eyes that see what they want to see. I read that as ‘make sure there are lots of SEQUINS’: an excellent maxim, which promptly sent my male heterosexual mind back a back a good many years to a fine sequence of sequins.

I was rather disappointed to discover, on a second take, that all the sexy, shiny, sparkly shimmer had gone like yesteryear, and I was left with “you, author write more books. Now.” The truth is, sequels often fail to sustain that magic, and I wonder if good advice for authors might be ‘quit while you’re ahead’.

But then I never met good advice I couldn’t ignore. I’m talented like that, if I say it myself. And perhaps a sequin is the fifth sequel.

Of course one of the major problems with a sequel (or five) is that so often in a well-constructed novel, two things have usually happened – Firstly: the lead character/s have grown, quite possibly doing away with that very flaw which gave the author such a handy lever to get them into trouble (see Changeling’s Island (Baen). Secondly: in a spirit of tidiness many an author has effectively dispatched and disposed of the villain-in-chief – who was often the nastiest villain on the scene (See TOM where I was twice as efficient – maybe four times what I am in real life, and had killed off not only one really nasty villain, but two.) Of course the really smart author who pre-planned the sequel usually wisely merely sent the villain to jail or lurk in their lair pondering terrible revenge, wherefrom, as all villains are recidivists, they can emerge again, bigger and worse. Sadly this ‘clever’ often ends in the book being less than satisfying, and no-one wanting the sequel.

For the less-clever – like me — facing the point when readers start yelling “sequel, sequel, sequel!!” in a rising chorus (with just that hint of pitch-forks and torches in the background) the author probably says something meaningful like: “Mutter mutter mutter. Stupid jackass earlier self shoulda thought of this. Hmph. Wonder if I can re-animate…”

The truth is, you quite possibly can’t, especially if you killed them properly the first time. And trust me on this, if you hadn’t done a good job of it they wouldn’t be chanting ‘sequel! SEQUEL! SEQUEL!!’ outside.

So you need a fresh flaw, and a new villain. And, here’s the bad news. They’ve got to be a biggerer and worserer villain. You can just go and buy another generic bad guy off the shelf at Villains-R-US – because your heroes have proved they can beat those. And please, please don’t dream-sequence the prior victory and have it that Vladimary the Indeterminate is still sacrificing babies to the evil god Hilump after all (Yes, I really have read that plot-line. And seen it on TV). I’ve lost track of the number of sequels where the other alternative to this: Valdimary now being dead, turns into having been the mere cats-paw for Hilump… who never got mentioned in the first book. It can be done well, but very rarely is.

In modern-paint-by-numbers-generic-fiction, the villain is usually established nice and early on with a suitably gory rape/murder/child-rape which is not any way sickly voyeuristic (cough) and would happily have you leave your young daughter in the care of the author. I guess there is a reason why I’m never going to really bind to Game of Thrones, or be a vast success, because I struggle to write those sort of scenes. I sketched out what I wanted of the nasty Elizabeth Bartoldy and Bianca Casarini in the Heirs books and left that scrap to my co-authors ( Best reason yet for having them). I did enjoy writing the comeuppance scenes though.

Still – one is left with ‘what’s worse’ when looking for that next layer of villainy? Two murders/rapes instead of one? Three in book three… Both? And a bit of pillage or racism for the third. Book four has the new villain with all of those AND sexism. And book five, the new villain has all of that AND (insert suitable scary music here) homophobia. If there a book six you’re left with all of that and Donald Trump’s hair…

It doesn’t work very well, does it? Even for ardent seekers after social justice… A murderer is murderer, a thief a thief, a rapist a rapist. Yes, you can take it to murdering sweet little old ladies for fun, as opposed to whoever you wrote in that first villain… but sequel villains are hard.

I struggled somewhat with this. I eventually came up with a short list of possibilities – most of which have a common thread.

There’s nature itself – and what that brings out in people. The aftermath of a hurricane or tsunami or nuclear disaster is a fairly horrific sequel, because it almost certainly means destroying a large part of what you wrought in the first book.

Then I came up with ‘calumny’. “What the Hades is that?” I hear you say, as you roll your eyes at my folly.

Well: It’s a gumbo closely related to vegetarian chili.

Ahem. That’s an illustration of a base calumny about gumbo. Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins. Ancient Jewish law (from which much of our Western modern morals and law are derived) I feel was wrong about calumny. They only considered an equal sin to what the calumny was about, and punished it accordingly. I think it worse than the crime or sin.

Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. So: the witness that says Fred committed the murder, while knowing that Fred was actually not even in the state – but he doesn’t like Fred. Or the woman who claims that she was raped by Fred, when actually she was an eager participant, but later thought her boyfriend would break up with her. The mattress-on-her-head girl, the plump comedienne Lena Whatsit… these are people who committed calumny.

And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever. They’ll wear the psychological damage within too. But, vile though that is, in a way it is a lesser ill than they do to their society – especially to future REAL victims. The accusation loses credibility, and that shelters the true perps in future.

As story material for a sequel, it’s hard to beat. Your hero can go from hero to zero in 10 seconds flat, and the damage it will do is good material for an author, although hell for the character. Being an innocent individual – especially if the presumption of guilt rests hard on you, and is accepted by others – is a hellish predicament, a dreadful thing to do to someone. One can quite understand why the historical penalty for false witness was same as the penalty for the crime would have been. I feel – especially considering the collateral damage – that’s quite light.

Of course, part of the reason this isn’t something that the villains of many a story suffer from is that it has passed, somehow, into being acceptable – especially in politics. Both sides of the spectrum do it – but it’s of course easier when you’re a protected class. So Irene Gallo can cheerfully utter calumny about the sad puppies being bad writers, racists, sexists, homophobes etc. knowing she lies in her teeth, with the clear intent to damage the reputations and hurt careers, but safe in ‘oh you’re sexist misogynists’ if called on it. Hillary Clinton takes this a step further, with her ‘basket of deplorable racists etc.’ of her political foes – which is somewhat more vicious in that she adds the ‘some of’. That is interesting from someone with a legal background, as it places the burden of establishing innocence on the victims – as Irene did with her eventually forced not-apology.

You end up with ‘everyone I disagree with is Hitler’ – which seriously degrades the accusations. One day there may be a real ‘Hitler’ or real a sexist, and a real victim/s… and the term will be meaningless.

If you want a real social justice issue to write about, calumny and indeed false witness are much neglected ones. It was a substantial part of the villainy in A Mankind Witch (Heirs of Alexandria Book 2). I kind of like the concept, once again in my admittedly limited understanding of ancient Jewish law, that a man who remained silent when his testimony could have established innocence or guilt was just as guilty. But that has gone out of fashion, these days.

There are two other levels of nasty villainy I came up with in thinking about this. I’ve used both particularly in the HEIRS OF ALEXANDRA books, but also in Cuttlefish by Dave Freer (2012-07-24) and STEAM MOLE. Treachery and treason often go hand in hand, and although treason is out of PC fashion it’s a betrayal of the trust of one’s own people – and potentially the key to things like genocide and enslavement – step ups in the ‘nasty villain’ stakes.

Of course there is one other interesting possibility of a worse villain – and the hardest of all. And that is the hero themselves, especially when dealing things like trust and fear. When you take the psychological mess that being a hero can leave people in – PTSD for just one example – you can have one hell of a book. I’ve done that too, but not well enough for publication.

But failing all that you can always write about sequins.

Ooh Shiny…

Oh I’m punting my mailing list again. I need another 21 subscribers to get that vast number – a century, at which I threatened to send out my first test noose-letter and a copy of the short story I wrote in RATS, BATS AND VATS Universe, intended as a seed for the final Harmony and Reason book, and as a commemoration of sorts of the 100th year anniversary of Anzac Day. There’s not a lot about the inflatable rattess business in it.

 

83 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, WRITING, WRITING: CRAFT

83 responses to “Sequins: more and badder villains

  1. Maybe we should have a new class of book. Paperback, hardback, leather-bound, sequin-bound?

    It would certainly make libraries more glittery

    I’m not sure that the villains need to get ever worse in a series. They can just expose different weaknesses of the hero. Take, for example, the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold. Miles Vorkosigan is the protagonist of many of them and he does get gradually more powerful and wise, but the challenges he faces also change so that he’s still challenged even when he’s (apparently) all powerful.

    • Quite a lot of that depends on just how the author has ‘closed’ the book, and somewhat on the skill of the author at exploiting the scene-change possibilities combined aspects of the hero we had hinted at or even shown (but not made relevant). Not all of us are Lois Bujold caliber at that.:-)

    • Terry Sanders

      Or many a series from the old days. Especially detective stories. Except for Arnold Zeck, Nero Wolfe and Archie didn’t face a greater villain each time. Just a different one.

  2. If we have sequins, can we have glitter?

  3. Well; I, for one, am curious what you will do for a sequel, if one is indeed forthcoming.

    No pitchforks from me though. ^_^

  4. “… when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established is tarnished forever.”

    Calumny – yes, an interesting point. I think this explains why I am still bone-deep angry with how the American Tea Party was slimed with constant accusations of being racist, stupid, violent and reactionary … when in truth they were largely earnest contentious, responsible good citizens, acting on their very real concerns regarding fiscal responsibility and fidelity to the Constitution. There are media personalities, politicians and public intellectuals who mouthed those calumnies whom I will go on despising for the rest of their lives or mine,

    • People ask why I don’t trust the media. I got a media-related degree, and the first issue is that I saw the vast majority of students who were pursuing such degrees. (The exceptions were largely interested on the technical end, with the occasional shining star who was actually interested in committing journalism.) The second issue is that I learned exactly how commercials manipulate people—and how easily that’s applied elsewhere.

      For the third issue, all you have to do is see stories that you have personal knowledge of presented for television and print. Or heck, look at what they did for shock stories coming out of the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. It turns out that the actual issues were the typical result of facility overuse, but if you went with the first not-on-the-scene reports, it was Thunderdome incarnate.

      I basically tell people that most of the stories on social media can best be described thusly: “The media want you to pay attention to them.” Never trust a first report, and only trust a consensus if you have expertise in the subject.

      • I suspect that most authors – and reporters are at least somewhat manipulative ;-/. Humans are, some deliberately and with skill. Some dishonestly so. And that I do have an issue with. I grew up South Africa, and learned not to trust the media – any media – too far. My favorite illustration was when I had taken my pregnant wife, and two pet dogs – an Old English Sheepdog and a Bull-terrier on a sampling trip. Our last stop was a fish-factory where I had leave to take my gut and spine samples before work started — so I was there from about 4.30 AM. The little processor was next door to a huge cannery. Unbeknownst to us there was a strike (basically politics masquerading as industrial relations – a common method in SA where the politics were pushed underground) by the ANC driven union. So: exhausted and loaded with crates of smelly samples, I got into the truck and Barbs drove out… One pregnant woman, a guy in dirty jeans and bloody lab coat, an old truck, and two excited dogs sticking their heads out of the windows and barking… arriving suddenly BEHIND the a mob of chanting, toyi-toyi-ing placard waving protestors. At the back, where they thought they were secure… Well, Barbs was tired, I was tired, all we wanted was to get past and go home – we’d been away for days. We destroyed the picket – everyone panicked and ran. No plan of ours, no evil intent, no one bitten, threatened or hurt by us. This was Saldahna – a sleepy fishing port. There wasn’t even a policeman there, yet.

        The incident was reported both in local press – where the protest had been peacefully broken up by the police, and on the BBC overseas service by Fergal Keane IIRC – where the protest had been brutally attacked by the police with dogs.

        So I tend to take reportage with a grain of salt. Just a grain.

    • Yes – as I said a crime/sin worthy of a worse ‘punishment’ than they inflicted by their willful and malicious false testimony. And I feel much the same about those who knew it was lie, a deliberate smear — and were silent. A lot of that comes down to either being malicious themselves, or being cowardly – it takes guts to stand up to your own and say: “That’s not true. I know Fred and he is not a racist.”

      • snelson134

        And this goes triple when it’s done in an official capacity. Mike Nifong ahould be serving 3 consecutive sentences for rape, no parole possible.

        • I don’t know who Mike Nifong is, but if you are a major leader of opinion – I begin to think you should get the same sentence… repeated for each person who believed you.

          • Mike Nifong was the local district attorney in the Duke University lacrosse team rape scandal.
            Basically, he went ahead with a racially-charged prosecution of innocent uni sports team players (white) accused of raping a woman (of color) paid to appear at a party, buried exculpatory evidence …all to curry favor/votes in the local voting population of color during an election year.

            Of course, it eventually came out that the so-called victim was a fantasist with violent inclinations (later convicted and imprisoned for murdering one of her bed-mates) and the three accused uni youths were indeed, totally innocent. One of them wasn’t even there when the crime was alleged to have been committed.

          • The harm Nifong did goes beyond rape; he perpetuated racial conflict for his own benefit. It HARMED that community in ways that can’t be fixed, and the harm went beyond that particular small community. To racism, he added classism; the alleged perpetrators were perceived to be elitist, because they were varsity athletes in a small (meaning ‘meaningless and stupid’) sport at a private (and therefore expensive) university.

            • Pat, I think it amply exemplifies what I talked about here: “But, vile though that is, in a way it is a lesser ill than they do to their society – especially to future REAL victims. The accusation loses credibility, and that shelters the true perps in future.”

  5. Being an innocent affected by calumny sucks. But I suspect it would suck even worse if you don’t remember the details well enough to be sure you haven’t done it. According to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (http://www.killology.com/), memory distortions are common after combat, especially in the first few days.

    That’s not PTSD, it is a lot more common.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Compare gaslighting.

      • yes. Gaslighting is something I must use in a book, soon. It is potentially thoroughly evil

      • I’m still unsure what the term gaslighting is supposed to mean. Would someone kindly please explain? ^^;

        • SlitherKitten

          Gaslighting is psychological manipulation in which the victim is made to doubt their own perceptions or sanity. A real-life example I once came across was that of a boy whose mother, one day, suddenly started calling him by a different name and told him to stop joking around when he asked why she was calling him by a new name. “Don’t be silly, your name ALWAYS was X!” Then she kept changing his name, her name, the name of the town they lived in, and so forth. Finally, she abandoned him on the side of a highway with him being entirely confused as to what his name was, where he lived, or any way to identify her.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          ‘Look what you made me do’, and ‘stepped on a spot’ randomly punishing a child might count. Maybe also newspeak and the Stalinization of history. Term comes from a play/film.

        • Mary

          It comes from a story where a man altered the way their gaslights burned and denied that the light was changing until he drove his wife mad.

    • true, Ori. That is awful and can really trouble a man with concience. And your foe ALSO doesn’t remember the details well, and can also create a narrative that makes him feel better – because the other soldier was dastard.

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    IMO Sequels are always better when the author had a big story that takes several books to tell.

    Mind you, a good writer could give each book an “ending” while making it clear that there’s more story to tell.

    • Drak, yes, as I said, the clever man plans his series. But – as has happened to me a few times now, sometimes it wasn’t planned that way, readers just are quite… demanding. And my job is dependent on obliging them to some extent. A clever writer can usually find some way to do it.

  7. BobtheRegisterredFool

    But that’s Hillary Clinton. She has a known history of such statements, especially when discrediting people who might otherwise be considered victims of rape.

    Some of the Trump primary voters did so with the intention of voting for Hillary in the general.

    Hillary’s damage, at a minimum, is that she is an inside the box thinker who came of age during the sixties and has been living inside an intellectual circle jerk. Like many Americans, she does not fully understand the hows and whys of the end of segregation. Like some Leftists, she probably has an agenda involving the murder of a certain amount of Americans. The combination might lead to the apparent delusional thinking and insecurity about the American people in someone not extremely wise or intelligent.

    • I’m less au fait with your politicians than I should be, but given the context I doubt that to be an unscripted statement. Which means it’s not just her delusions, but in fact the acceptable calumny put up by her speech writer – which would certainly be vetted by her inner circle of advisors.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Clintons have a reputation for only trusting an inner circle that has proven its loyalty with many years of dedicated service. They don’t necessarily think any differently from Hillary, and might not be in the businesses of contradicting her if they do.

        Hillary is the one who claimed, in the nineties, that a ‘vast right wing conspiracy’ was the cause of everyone who didn’t believe her when she always said that the women making claims about Bill were poor scum chasing wealth and power. (Now, given the evidence that Hastert is a pederast, there is grounds to suspect insincerity on the part of high ranking Republicans.)

        With such an organization, lies and madness are possible.

  8. So, let me understand this calumny thing. If a person, hypothetically, were to say “Hillary Clinton is a syphilitic whore.” that would be a calumny, right?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Well, if I understand the term, it would more “I witnessed Hillary Clinton taking money for men to have sex with her and I have her medical records that show she’s syphilitic”. 😉

      Of course, there’s also the aspect that if you have evidence to clear Hillary Clinton of the charges and remained silent, then you’re guilty of calumny.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Sorry, I left out the “you were a liar” concerning what you witnessed and what evidence you had. 😦

    • Randy Wilde

      They’re not that hard to find. You can probably check the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times or pretty much any newspaper for the writings of syndicated calumnists.

    • No Sean, I would take that as merely an insult. The line blurs between but as I understand it: A calumny is a malicious lie – where the liar intends his hearer to believe it as the literal truth, thereby at the very least damaging the reputation of the innocent victim. If I call someone a Jackass – you don’t expect them to sprout long ears. You get that I think they’re stupid, obstinate unpleasant etc. If I tell you I think they’re a Jackass because they tried to set their fart on fire while wearing nylon underwear (which catches fire if you do this)… well, if it is true, and I have reason know that, and you would believe me: it is NOT a calumny. It’s just an insult, and quite an accurate description at that. If I lied, but still would reasonably know, and you would believe me – then that’s a calumny. So to give a further example if I called a nice looking girl a whore, you might believe me and if it was a lie, it’s a calumny. If I called HC that… the ‘who would pay?’ question would have to be asked, wouldn’t it? Of course my comment might have been a historical reference, but then there are nuns of great saintliness who were whores, once.

  9. Sequels are especially tough if you keep to the same main characters. But instead of the next villain getting stronger, perhaps the bad guy should get weaker. 🙂 Break his leg doing his favorite sport, and _then_ see how many evil minions he can beat in a fight! Or worse, have him fall badly for the previous villain’s evil daughter. Well, that won’t work for a certain Tom Cat, but as general rule, just because a MC grew, doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. whether or not preceded by a regression to tomcat behavior.

    • Yes, there are various tricks to avoid the problem – using different characters from the first book is one I’ve done often. Long time lapses too – new issues and new problems for the hero can arise (like old age). It’s a complex subject.

  10. An excellent column, Dave, and one which gives me much to ponder. I’ve been trying to figure out what the big issue should be in the fifth book in one of my serieses (spell check doesn’t recognize that–is “series” one of those words without a plural form?). I’m shifting the focus from the original pair of main characters to a new, younger pair–the next generation, if you will–and a campaign of calumny against one of them might be just what the book doctor ordered.

  11. All you have to do to understand how awful calumny is as a crime is to think of how it feels to you personally to be called a liar when you are telling the truth. Then imagine the world telling you that you’re a liar for telling the truth. Especially when there is a crime involved.

    I think that’s the one non-physical thing that would put me into a rage.

    • Yes. Honestly I think recovering from physical injury is a lot easier than recovering from mental (as in thoughts or psychology, not physical injury to the brain) injury.

  12. I like the idea of series where the protagonist/s face very different types of threats and challenges.

    Let’s say they defeat the evil overlord in the first book, but then in the next the threat is a natural disaster except it’s not really natural but something the evil overlord triggered magically when he realized he was going to lose, and they need to find first find this out and then find magic to counter this before it destroys their land. Then when the land is barely starting to recover the neighboring kingdom decides to invade, now that the evil overlord is gone and the kingdom of the heroes is on the brink due to the non-natural natural disaster. And maybe the next is mostly just a romance with some extra heaping of complications, when the main hero woos the daughter of the king who in the previous book tried to invade but survived his defeat, and the marriage is supposed to seal their peace except the headstrong princess is not willing (even if the hero mostly is).

    And so on. I guess the Vorkosigan Saga comes closest to something like that, of what I have read. Would be sort of more believable than a sequence of the same only now with more sequins, and you’d see more sides of the heroes when they have to deal with different types of problems. Admittedly that would, and does, need very strong and easy to like protagonists, characters who, and whose life, interests the reader in general more than certain type of plot or certain type of story in general.

    • Arthur Conan Doyle and Anthony Hope both managed decent sequels where the main plot was dealing with one of the now-deceased villain’s underlings. Gini Koch has an over-the-top series where each deposed villain is more-or-less succeeded by another villain (often an underling of the deposed villain)) in the next book.

      History is replete with examples. Austria, Hungary, Poland and various other nations in eastern and central Europe went centuries where they’d (with luck) fend off the Mongol or Turkish hordes, sometimes defeating decisively and killing their military leadership…. and they’d be back again few years later. In more recent years, how many times have American and allied special forces and air strikes taken out key Islamic terrorist leaders and their staff, only to have new leadership emerge?

      When dealing with aggressive ideologies, tribal hordes, nation states, a truly lasting victory is hard to come by. That’s not the same as what’s necessarily needed for a story, of course – how many times can the same battles be refought in story before it gets old? – but just something I thought I’d point out.

      • There’s always the stubborn antagonist (see the Comanche chief[s] called Cornu Verde) who 1) won’t accept that he’s defeated and 2) learns the weaknesses of his enemies. In the historical case, Cornu Verde II may well have been Junior, but no one is really certain (as of the state of the research 5 years ago).

        • True enough. Some villains (and heroes, and would be heroes) can be quite stubborn.

          Sometimes it can reach cliche proportions, though – which is fine if played for laughs. That hilarious cartoon from my youth, “Inspector Gadget”, featured Doctor Claw, the villain who always got away in the end, vowing “I’ll get you next time, Gadget.”

        • Yes, as I said, the clever author who planned that doesn’t kill the bad guy…

      • Joe in PNG

        History can be fun for this sort of thing. Instead of the one Evil Overlord, you now have his mass of minions who are now scattered groups with different agendas, all of whom are floating in the grey area of semi-legality.
        Or your most powerful ally used you to defeat his arch rival, now he’s the bad guy (paging Joe Steel).

        • And, if you want to maintain the difficulty, now that the Evil Overlord is defeated Our Hero suddenly finds his support drying up because now he’s “unnecessary.”

          • 60guilders – heh. many Revolutionaries found out that they were less than popular after the revolution.

            • Its often much harder to run a nation than it is to depose the person who’s currently doing so. Its a lot easier to agree on the fact the ruler needs to go, than to agree what to do now that he’s gone. But it could make for great story-telling.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        That is why the Jacksonian approach is the best foundation for lasting peace.

    • agree. It’s often best not to repeat the pattern, but to take the characters into an entirely different challenge.

      • I also have a preference, as a reader, for series with a group of protagonists rather than a single hero, provided it’s a functional group – I am NOT a fan of soap operas where the personal feelings and failings of the characters are the main focus, I much prefer characters who have them but can deal with them well enough that they don’t become the main obstacle when it comes to defeating their real world enemies and problems. No sulking in your tent while your friend gets killed, Achilles, thank you (well, Achilles I can tolerate, but he and his ilk are the exceptions as far as I am concerned. Most writers are not Homer. Or Shakespeare, for that matter. And the fact is that I have some problems even with some of them. Don’t like characters who let their feelz dictate everything even to the point of ignoring outside tangible threats. So sue me).

        Anyways, I’d think that a group rather than a single hero would make writing a series easier too. The sequels can focus a bit more on some other characters and their personal journeys and challengers. Provided, of course, that the writer manages to make them individuals, not carbon copies of each other.

  13. The Super-Evul Villain does terrible unspeakable things to the Innocent and Wonderful Victim. Flawed Gritty Hero Cop/Lawyer triumphs over the Super-Evul Villain, they get tossed in the slammer.
    Sequined Weeping Friends promise to remember the Innocent and Wonderful Victim forever, and Sequined Weeping Friends hateses the Super Evul Villain forever, my precious. And the book ends, it’s a satisfactory conclusion.
    But the next book starts with Flawed Gritty Hero being asked question by an Inquiring Mind. FGH discovers IWV wasn’t innocent nor wonderful neither, and the SEV was just a chump with problems.
    And the new villain emerges, and it’s the Sequined Weeping Friends, who will not under any circumstances permit the narrative to change.
    It’s been done in a single volume; I’m thinking about Witness For The Prosecution, Primal Fear, and maybe Fight Club (but I dunno about the Last, I refuse to watch it, having read the book).

    Oh, no! The story is REAL?!?

  14. The only author I can think of who routinely makes use of calumny as a plot device is Michael Crichton. “Congo”, “Disclosure”, “Airframe”, and “Rising Sun” all had characters who had to deal with being smeared in some way.

    It’s funny how often sequels and series have been coming up in the blogs I read lately. Now that I have (finally) gotten going on a new project I keep seeing confirmation that I did the right thing by shutting my last one down before it got stale.

  15. Chris Nelson

    I don’t think you necessary need a Villain 2.0 or 3.0 nor a increasing uber-villain done in retro style like the Lensman series. Sometimes it’s a change in environment, or the increasing challenges of a maturing protagonist. A good example of example is the growth of Giraut and the cultures he faces in John Barnes’ “Thousand Cultures” series.

    And I don’t think an author needs direct sequels, aka “Harry Potter” or “Perry Rhodan” . Connected novels set in a shared universe can be very engaging if well crafted. Barnes’ “Century Next Door” series books share the same universe and some of the same villains.

  16. Echo Ishii

    I’m a person who does not require books to have sequels. Frankly, in fantasy/SF I treasure a in-depth, doorstop length, standalone that I can read again and again.

    Instead of uber powering the villainy, perhaps a series can benefit from leaving a villain out for a book. Instead, bring up issues like group in fighting; treachery; calumny; doubting, loss of faith, impatience- all those inner issues that can wreck a hero and the hero’s group dynamics. Shed a few people from the hero circle, and come back stronger in the next book.

  17. Mary

    the big problem I have with sequels is when they undermine the happy ending.

    It makes it hard to believe in the next happy ending.

    In my experience, the best sequels generally shift to another character. If our hero Jack marries Sally at the end after the defeat of the Big Bad, it’s their daughter Jill who stars in the sequel. Etc.

    • Terry Sanders

      ((cough) Star Wars (cough))

      • Mary

        Luke is happily married to Mara Jade and they have a son they named Ben.

        • Terry Sanders

          Until Han and Leia’s son murders his wife (and eventually gets executed by his sister). And he’s forced into exile. And this is after an alien invasion wipes out half the Republic.

          None of which actually happened, of course. Ask Disney. Instead we learn that nothing useful was accompanied in the Luke trilogy at all…

  18. Thank you for the reminder – I was about to sign up last week, and then something distracted me. (I don’t remember any sequins?)

    Villains, hmm. I have my series mapped out (roughly) – and the villains don’t come front and center until the very end of the fourth book (with only two sequels to go). Think George Soros, Val Jarett, Huma Abedin – working in the shadows, with their cats-paws being the only ones really visible, although you know the real ones are still there.

    I’m going to have to hope that readers can deal with delayed gratification, I guess. Although I do kill off quite a few of the cats-paws along the way; maybe that will keep them interested.

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  20. Rich Rostrom

    Of course one of the major problems with a sequel (or five) is that so often in a well-constructed novel, two things have usually happened…Secondly: in a spirit of tidiness many an author has effectively dispatched and disposed of the villain-in-chief – who was often the nastiest villain on the scene…

    When Doc Smith was writing the “Lensman” books, after each tranche of super-villains was destroyed, it was revealed that they had been only the stooges of previously concealed super-super-villains, through four iterations. (This was in the original serials in “Astounding”; when the books were released in paperback, the top villains were revealed at the start.)

  21. I always did dislike forced sequels that show it. I feel like there are too many of these to count, probably a large majority of the sequels that are boring. Even great authors can mess it up.

    I think there are several ways to do sequels properly (that I see as a reader, not a writer). All of them involve preplanning for the extended series. For example trilogies or long epic fantasy journeys. Several of those dont even have a conclusion to the actual book, just building up for the next one. Some great ones are the Wheel of Time. I’m pretty sure the hero ends up getting messed up psychologically long before the end of the book (he even does some quite villainy things too), before coming into his own somewhere near the end.

    I think unplanned sequels would do better to focus on different main characters with in the same universe, then the old heroes can be mentors or cameos for fans. Like one of the previous posters said, I do hate when a happy ending is messed up in the name of selling more books (or TV shows that do this erg!). Unless of course something is left open from the first book that can be explored (like a flaw that was never polished up or something). I’m also a fan of the big bad, whist being killed gud, lets slip that the heroes will regret his death because now xyz is free to ravage the world. My favorite example being Mistborn, ooo the shivers as you wait the next book!

    PS- Moar dragon books *brandishes fiery brand*. Also, is Fionn really in love or was it only Mebs magic… see question to be answered, it haunts my dreams. You got a planet jumping dragon with a penchant for mischief, I’m sure there is something that needs fixing… or destroying. xD rawr?