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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Writing, Again: Part X - Prequel Problems

I've typed on this subject before, but as I'm nearer the book's release, it seemed fitting to tackle it again.

There's an inherent problem with prequels.  If characters carry over from the original to the prequel, then we already know how they turn out.  So we have to make things interesting.  We have to do stuff with them that defies (some measure of) expectations.

Trust me, I didn't go so far as this.

Zeus and crew feature prominently in Book Five, of course.  But the Zeus we see is not the same Zeus we find in the trilogy.  There is a learning curve for him.  We get hints of the god who will rule Kobol, but he doesn't fully come into his own within these pages.

The same can be said for other characters that appear in the trilogy, but I won't go into further detail for fear of ruining any potential surprises.

Another problem?  Characters you don't know about and aren't familiar with at all.  Sometimes this isn't a problem and sometimes it is.

Like this guy.  Who cared about him in the Matrix sequels?  No one.  That's who.

Typically, that's a result of poor writing.  If A) the new character isn't intriguing and B) the older, beloved characters appear to be shunted aside in favor of the new characters, then you get audience displeasure.

By necessity, there are new characters in Book Five.  The subtitle alone tells you that the Titans are involved.  Also, as depicted in a Book Three flashback, we know that there's a Caesar, too.  I found Caesar to be a compelling character and I didn't mind dedicating plenty of space to him.  I don't believe the readers will mind, either.

Despite my own enjoyment of Caesar Maxentius IX, I know people are reading this for more Zeus, et al, and Cylons.  I felt duty-bound to get to them as soon as possible, so the creation of the Titans comes fairly early on.  (And the birth of the Olympians shortly after that.)  The bulk of the book is Titans vs. Olympians.  That's the whole point, right?

I was about a month into it when I realized I was falling into the prequel trap.  I was spending too much time with new characters and, as a consequence, the characters people wanted to spend time with were being shunted further and further back.  So I began to trim.  I had to be careful, though, as I needed to build the world.

Book One spends a good bit of time building the world of Kobol in the golden age of the Lords' reign.  When I first published the book, I probably had too many chapters doing that.  In subsequent edits, I removed a few.  It's a tighter book and the world doesn't seem to have suffered.

Book Five is much the same.  The world is very different, though.  It's not a world unified and buoyed by the gods.  I spent too long building corners of the world that could have been taken care of more organically as the story progressed.  All's well now and the book is shorter for it.  (Not much shorter, though.  Frak.  I'll discuss that at a later time.)

But there's a tiger in our faces.  I need to mention it.

I liked it.  A lot.

Caprica had very large shoes to fill, coming after BSG.  Unfortunately, the show seemed to spin its wheels for the first third or so of the season.  They got lost in world building and in character building, too.  They had a hard time getting the characters to a place where the audience truly wanted to spend time with them.  It's a shame, because they began to find purchase and gain ground in the latter part of the series, which, of course, was too late.

How did Caprica fare against the prequel problem?  Well, they avoided having any characters from BSG in it (though they did have the family members of some).  The entire show was made up of new characters, some of whom clicked better than others.  They jumped into it, whole hog.  Props for the attempt.  If the early going hadn't seemed so slow and had "SyFy" treated it better, I'm sure we'd have a few seasons of a good-to-great prequel to reflect upon.

More posts coming soon ... including maps, mythology, and the problem with Galactica.

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