Hi Gang, Craig with you once more with another Expansion Pack. This one is going to be about One Upmanship. Might seem like a strange topic, but I’m a strange kind of guy.
This post came to me first out of the three posts, and was brought to me by a modern friend we’ve all made, streaming services. I found my all-time favorite television show on one of these services, and decided to relive the fun. I had a blast, but I’ve developed more of a discerning eye since the 1980s.
This show had it all, antihero cops, a young thug on his way to mafia royalty, not to mention glitz, glamor, and soundtrack. Every episode seemed to top the ones before it. We had brutal murders, cold mafia hits, and an exploding elevator full of bosses. At the end of the season, the main antagonist and his top henchman wound up out at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. They were wounded and bleeding from a Las Vegas shootout with the hero.
The baddies hid inside a building full of mannequins, and had an epiphany about where they were just before the bomb went off. (Twenty plus years before Indianna Jones, I might add.)
It was so popular it earned a second season. And here we come to the point of the post. What are you going to do next? People loved it and wanted more. How do you come up with bigger and better? The fact is, they didn’t. They had to come up with some cockamamie reason for the bad guys to survive, then abandon the whole Las Vegas takeover in favor of more international flavor. You really can’t get much bigger than getting blown up by a nuclear bomb.
Las Vegas was also the apex for the glitz and glamor, and world building is important. Third world countries just don’t compare. It’s like a sudden jarring shift from what we bought into.
This concept probably applies more to series authors, but you have to be cognizant of these things as you write. It applies to anything that could be considered an adventure. There is a summit out there, and once you’ve reached it you’ll have a hard time keeping the audience hooked.
Your cowboy hero might use a civil war cannon one time in a climactic battle, but he sure isn’t going to ride into the sunset with it in his pocket for next time. You can’t get repetitive and keep your audience. The superhero can’t solve every problem by going supernova and killing every living thing for miles around.
It probably doesn’t matter much for stand alone titles. Save your huge event for the end and enjoy. If you’re writing a closed series, the same logic applies. However, if you have an ongoing series, you could run into a problem just like this.
Sure, you could tone down the early adventures, but a tricycle chase through an old folks home probably isn’t going to hook readers into picking up book two. (Might be fun to write, though.)
As I’m hacking these three related posts out, I suppose my advice is to be aware of these things. It’s almost impossible not to write yourself into a corner, but knowing some of this beforehand might make it easier to write yourself back out.
Here’s the link to the previous post about Canon.