12.11.2012

Serial Killer

Today, I read on Cinema Blend about Quentin Tarantino's decision not to make a Kill Bill 3. He'd been talking about it for years, just as he'd been talking about a Vegas brothers follow-up from his Pulp Fiction/Reservoir Dogs era as well as a prequel to Inglourious Basterds, but he's probably not going to get around to those either. And that's okay. Really.

It's one thing to have ideas for sequels. It's a whole other thing to get them down on paper. Even for someone like QT, who could pretty much do whatever he wanted and have a slobbering horde of fans (of which I am a proud member) throw piles of money at him, it takes a different kind of commitment to write sequels and serials, and some folks just don't have it. They have too many "new" ideas crowding their brains, and once they lay them down, it's almost impossible to go back with that same level of enthusiasm, because you want to devote your attention to the Next Big Idea.

Hell, I don't even know if I have it. I've had ideas for sequels to pretty much every novel I've ever written. I have about twelve-thousand words to the SCARLET LETTERS follow-up tucked away in my In Progress folder. I have a rough plot outline and some notes jotted down for the second book in the Last Supper universe as well as a planned trilogy for STRINGS, and that's about as close to completion as I've ever gotten on a sequel.

And this lack of writer motivation about sequels has little to do with demand. People ask me all the time when the next Scarlet Letters book will be finished, and the few who have read Strings seem very enthusiastic about a subsequent novel, and the latter one will almost certainly happen, especially if a publisher picks it up, because I ended it the way I did specifically to leave room for a second book. Same thing with Last Supper. But the others are a little different. I didn't write with a sequel in mind for Scarlet Letters. It was my first ever novel, and the only priority I had at the time was that I just get it done, period. Trying to go open the door back into that world has been more difficult than I thought it would be, and it isn't just because I'm rusty on the material. It's because I'm a different kind of writer now than I was three years ago. Back then, I was just throwing things at the wall to see what would stick. Now I have pretty specific ideas about the kinds of stories I want to be known for. Tonally, what I've written of Scarlet Letters 2 so far feels completely different from the first book. It feels more like the kind of stuff I've been writing in the years since. Darker, grim, and certainly not as outright funny. While I still want to finish it, it keeps getting pushed further down my priority list as I make room for more current stuff.

At any rate, I can understand why Quentin Tarantino commits to a lot of sequel proposals and doesn't follow through. The writer of the Cinema Blend article said that it's likely Tarantino gets more inspiration and energy from creating new original stories, rather than revisiting things he's already finished (Kill Bill 2 wasn't precisely a sequel, btw. It was written and filmed as a single movie, but broken up into two parts). Also, maybe he's afraid of fucking up the legacy of something he already created. With the first installment of anything, people's expectations lie in what they expect from you as a creator. With sequels, their expectations lie in how well it will compare to the previous installments, and often those expectations are waaaay higher than they should be, especially if the first attempt was a huge hit. And if you don't exceed your first effort, you have failed.

That anxiety something is I can relate to. I don't know if any of my sequels will be finished. I certainly hope so for at least a few of them. It seems to be a lucrative enterprise these days to turn any and every movie or book into a series, regardless of the quality of the subsequent material. But from a creative standpoint, if you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it. And if you're mailing it even a little, the readers and viewers will know it. Kill Bill 3 probably wouldn't have been up to QT's standards, and that most likely means it wouldn't have been up to ours either.