Knowing When to Stop

It almost never fails. The movie is finished, everybody liked it, you get compliments, and then you try to think of what to do next. And like a flashing neon sign comes the word sequel. That one word, when heeded, has been the downfall of many a project.

There are good sequels on occasion, but generally these come from well-developed stories to begin with. If the original film was lacking in development, the second (or third) installment suffers from the poor beginnings.

This was brought home to me while sitting across the table from Rebekah and Ruth. We were chatting about nothing in particular and iSundae III came to mind. Within fifteen minutes of goofing around, we had the semblance of a plot that, at an earlier time, would have had us scurrying off to write a script.The plot was somewhat of a Lord of the Rings spoof. Just to show how easy this is, here’s what we came up with:

As the power of Chocolate begins corrupting him, Stelen discovers that he can escape Reyshar’s fate if he and his fellow wielders destroy the iSundae swords in a microwave. Enlisting the help of Gwenanda the so-called enchantress to build a microwave, and hindered by power-obsessive Kitty Cone, the wielders embark on a quest to destroy the powers before it is too late.

You can see that the story is already rather weak. All we’ve done is take some of our existing characters, make them mirror characters from Lord of the Rings, and add a dash of silliness.

And that was where we stopped. In our minds, we stopped there because we have matured as writers to the point where such a story is no longer appealing. Not only that, but the iSundae series has a lot of random baggage in the root story that prevents us from handling it the way we would like. iSundae II is a testament to that fact. It could have been so much better if we’d gotten iSundae right to begin with.

Not only that, but iSundae doesn’t really need another sequel. Many films are this way. While reading release dates on Box Office Mojo, I was surprised to discover how many lame first films were receiving the sequel treatment this year. Seriously, do you (and we) want to be in that camp?

So this is my encouragement to you to leave those sequel ideas behind. Start something new, something that doesn’t need to be attached to the old work with its flaws. Come up with a new idea, which will hopefully have fewer flaws than your previous story. And then repeat the cycle.

There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes a good sequel idea shows up. When that happens, I’d recommend sitting on it for some time before going ahead with writing. Then, if it still seems good, be very careful to make it new and fresh. Don’t be tempted to ride on past success for the sake of making a movie. Instead, make sure the story is worthwhile.

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