How to know when there is another book

A friend of mine told me about this post on Neil Gaiman’s blog:

Nearly there:

Normally when I finish a book, it’s over. Maybe there are more stories, but it’s done. I get letters from kids asking why I don’t do another Coraline book, and maybe she’s at school and the Other Mother could be pretending to be her teacher and… but I can’t really imagine writing another Coraline book. It’s done.

The Graveyard Book on the other hand, seems to be generating other stories in my head. I guess I’m really interested in what happens to Bod next. Interesting. I suppose it’s understandable — my model was The Jungle Book, and there was The Second Jungle Book. (Although The Graveyard Book also reminds me in odd ways of Kim. And I always wanted to know what happened to Kim next.)

[Via: Neil Gaiman’s Journal]

I couldn’t imagine another Coraline book. All of her issues were resolved at the end of the story. It was finished. Sure, we could go back down the rabbit hole again, but that story’s already been told.

In Writing Mysteries, there is a chapter on recurring characters by Sara Paretsky. I liked her thoughts on the matter:

The death of a hero need not spell the demise of a series character, as Conan Doyle found to his dismay. In general, though, a story that brings a decisive closure to the protagonist’s life precludes a series about that character. Closure need not entail death. Instead it means the decisive resolution of conflicts plaguing the protagonist in such a way that a sequel can destroy or intrude on the reader’s relief in the resolution. In a story suited for a series, the resolution of plot conflicts becomes more important than that of character conflicts, however credible and intriguing the central character may be.

Sara, of course, is the author of V I Warshawski series of books so she knows something about how to move an intriguing character through book after book. 🙂

My detective has certain conflicts in her life for which I also don’t have answers. These lie primarily in a tension between her need to be alone and her need for intimacy. The story that resolved this conflict for my hero would probably be the last in the series.

I think the quote above about destroying or intruding on a reader’s relief applies quite well to Coraline. I just couldn’t imagine another book. The story is over. The same thought applies to the world of American Gods. Of course, Gaiman wrote a second book Anansi Boys, but I just couldn’t get into it as much as I loved the world of American Gods. Neil just did too fine a job closing the door at the end of the first book that I didn’t want to destroy the image I had in my mind.

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