How to Write a Terrible Sequel

Brought to you by 17 years of Disney direct-to-video animated sequels.

LOWER THE STAKES. Make the conflict less important and less exciting than the original. Like in Cinderella 2, in which Cinderella stresses about throwing the perfect party for her new father, the king. Wonderful!

CREATE CONFLICT OUT OF NOWHERE. Conflict should never arise naturally from the original's conclusion. It should appear as though you made it up on the spot, just so you could have something to write about. Like in Kronk's New Groove, where Kronk wants to impress his father who was never proud of him--a conflict and character not even hinted at in the original.

INTRODUCE A WHOLE NEW SET OF CHARACTERS WHO FOLLOW THE SAME EMOTIONAL ARC AS THE ORIGINAL ONES. That way you avoid TWO common pitfalls: giving the audience more time with the characters they love AND giving them a unique story as interesting as the first.

Do it like they did in Little Mermaid 2. Ariel('s daughter) desperately wants to be a mermaid instead of a human (see what they did there?), so Ursula('s sister) tricks her into a deal to get her hands on Triton's trident. They even replaced Sebastian and Scuttle with a comic relief penguin and walrus. Genius!

TURN A PREVIOUSLY SYMPATHETIC CHARACTER INTO SOMEONE THE AUDIENCE HATES. In the original Mulan, Mushu is the victim, mocked and despised by Mulan's ancestors until he can prove himself by aiding Mulan in her quest. But in Mulan 2, the writers gave us an unexpected twist. Mushu is now the taunter, treating the ancestors like his servants. When he discovers that Mulan's upcoming marriage will mean he doesn't get pampered anymore, he tries to break them up. How can you not love that?

And a bonus method, brought to you by midi-chlorians and the planet Zeist:

IF THERE WAS A MYSTERY IN THE ORIGINAL, PROVIDE AN EXPLANATION THAT IS LAMER THAN ANYTHING THE READER COULD'VE COME UP WITH THEMSELVES. This is the crowning achievement of a terrible sequel: when it is so bad, that it makes the original suck even more just by being made. Where the reader has to pretend the sequel never happened in order to enjoy the original again.

If you can do that, you no longer need my help.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

The opposite of #1 is also bad -- ramping up the conflict to stupid levels. You thought ONE anaconda was scary? Try HUNDREDS of them!!!!

Anonymous said...

Also: how to tell a blog writer has kids, Tip #24. ^^

Jayme Stryker said...

This is awesome! Thanks for the laughs and for reminding me why I have sequel issues. :)

Adam Heine said...

Lora wrote: "Also: how to tell a blog writer has kids, Tip #24. ^^ "

Indeed.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

LOL! This is also why I dread writing a sequel book - if I manage to write something good in the first one, heaven help me on the second.

Anonymous said...

Sequels are probably by far the most difficult to write. Thanks for the laughs :)

Jenna said...

Oh, Disney sequels...why must you be so...horrible? The second and third Cinderella movies were straight-up painful. >.<

I love this post. I've read at least four posts about writing sequels this week, but this has to be my favorite.

Claudie A. said...

That's hilarious, and so painfully true. XD

jjdebenedictis said...

Oh, oh--the last point is definitely the most painful. Sometimes you just have to pretend all the characters died in a tragic plane crash immediately after the first book/movie.

Matthew MacNish said...

Excellent. Hilarious and educational at the same time!

And please don't mention the Star Wars prequels again. They don't exist.

IanBontems said...

Too funny! Great examples and I couldn't agree more about those midi-chlorians and planet Zeist - my God, that second Highlander movie killed the whole franchise quicker than a katana to the neck. And like Matthew, I'm also in denial about the prequels.

Victoria Dixon said...

I think we're all getting sequel issues and you've revealed why. :D Thanks for the giggle. I sent my email with your post to my husband and he laughed so hard he sent it to all of his friends! LOL

R.S. Bohn said...

Do you, sir, happen to have young children? *g* I have avoided all Disney sequels by opting out of parenthood, which of course, was my main reason for doing so in the first place.

Myrna Foster said...

Great post! Pixar (Toy Story) and Dreamworks (Shrek) have better sequels.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Oh, these are so good, Adam! LOL!

I agree with Myrna that Pixar and Dreamworks totally rock when it comes to sequels. But Disney. Ba-ha-ha!

Amy

Donna Hole said...

Really! I'm getting so tired of sequels and remakes . .

Somebody find a new concept.

I think its a children's world out there - yes, even for adults. If you liked character X, then keep bringing them back over and over and over to kill the same dead horse.

We're on Halloween # what?

..........dhole

Mike McMahon said...

Wow Adam! First, great post. Second, I saw the first Highlander, thought is a good movie (sorry to not share the utter enthusiasm of the other posters and yourself, thought I'm sure I'd love it if I saw it again), but having read the plot on wikipedia I feel that I'm in mourning over the destruction of a sound story/world. May the Immortals never perish and true power never be explained!

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

Ha ha! I love that you chose Disney movies as your examples. Sequels are WAY overdone these days. It's like, if the first is mildly successful, let's make a sequel that totally contradicts the first? Or is just so stupid and unbelievable that I lose respect for the original? :)