Thursday, January 2, 2014

Neverending Stories

So many people have asked about a sequel to Reclaimed. Teachers and students accost stop me in the halls to discuss what happens later and demand I write a continuation. I’ve received emails expressing the same thing.

At first I was shocked people expected a sequel. To me, the story ends exactly where it needs to. The main conflicts are resolved and, in my mind, the characters are happy. (Or as happy as they can be considering the situations I put them in.) Then, I was flattered. That readers connect with and love my characters enough to want more is the best feeling an author can have. Sharing your characters with the world can be frightening, but when readers love them as much as you do, it’s worth it.

I have no plans for a sequel to Reclaimed at this time. I don’t know what that story would look like. But it got me thinking about story endings. To me, the best stories end in such a way that the main conflicts are resolved but the readers feel like the characters have a hundred more stories to tell.

I just read Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. For those who don’t know, it’s the newly released sequel to his 1977 book The Shining. I loved The Shining, but I really loved Doctor Sleep. King does such an amazing job of bringing his characters to life (making them shine, if I may), that even when the story is over, readers know the story isn’t over. The Shining didn’t need a sequel – King wrapped up the conflicts satisfactorily. But he’d created such dynamic characters that readers knew there was more story to tell. So he did, showing what happened to Danny Torrence. It didn’t read like a sequel to me. It was its own story, with appearances from familiar characters. But at the end of Doctor Sleep, I was left knowing that the characters had more story to tell. I want to know what troubles Abra gets into and out of.

It is my favorite King book, and while there is no sequel, I know, through the characters King created, that there is more story there. And I’d read it if King ever decided to write it down.

There’s a reason there are so many Pride and Prejudice continuations, with authors imagining what happened to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy after the wedding. It’s understandable why so many people write fanfiction – we know our favorite characters have much more adventure in them. When a character has been developed well enough to truly come alive in a reader’s mind, we know that the story the author chose to tell is just one of many.

The best stories linger in readers’ minds. We think about the characters and imagine a hundred different journeys. If done well, all stories can become Neverending Stories, which come to life, draw us in, and take us along with them, allowing us to create the endings, knowing that the best stories never truly end.

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