Recently, I read the novel Misery for the first time. At a certain point, Annie Wilkes says that when dealing with a cliffhanger, the resolution has to be “realistic” and “fair”, but she also wants this to apply to all literature. What does she mean? Well, if you’re on a plane and it’s about to crash, pull a parachute under the chair. Somewhat fair, pretty realistic. If a character with several broken bones suddenly is able to get a doctor and do experimental blood transfusions in the 19th century, then it’s not fair or realistic at all.
Paul Sheldon had a hell of a time getting the balance right, especially since he was being threatened with missing limbs if he didn’t deliver. And although I’m not in any danger of losing any limbs, I feel the pressure to make things realistic and fair with Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City. My philosophy with sequels is that you have to build up, do something better than the first book. To do that though, I find myself having to think really hard about how I plot the story as I write the outline, and I’m wondering if what I’m writing down for each chapter is any good.
I’ve often preached about sequels and how people just don’t know how to make good ones, but I have to admit that it’s hard. Most of the action of VR takes place on the road, and besides normal conflict, there’s also the conflict of relationships which I’m trying to insert. And when I add certain elements–a hunting cabin to hide in, a Lakota village with a hospital–I wonder if people will buy this or if they’ll call BS. I’d have someone critique the outline, but there’s only one person in the world besides me who’s even read RC, and I don’t want to spoil it for him by having him critique the outline.
Well, this is why I advise taking a break after writing the outline to creatively recharge those batteries. Perhaps after the outline’s first draft, I’ll be able to figure out if things need to be changed. However at this point I don’t intend on changing much…except possibly making one of the antagonists much more involved with the fighting instead of using drones and soldiers.
Wish me luck. I’ve got more work to do in the morning, where I’ll try to finish this outline. Honestly, VR could potentially be longer than RC, the way I’ve been writing the outline.