A Second Series That Comes Before the First: Dreaded Prequels

LOTR and the Hobbit

One could say that War of Nytefall is a loose prequel to Legends of Windemere.  It’s pretty easy to say since it’s true.  They take place in the same world with the same races, magic system, and many shared cities.  There may even be a cameo or two from familiar faces that can survive the centuries.  It creates a bigger web of world-building and opens up more of Windemere for other stories.  The foundation has grown wider and higher, but there are risks.

First, one runs into a problem with readers thinking they have to read the first series to get into the second.  This isn’t true since they are separate stories that happen to take place in the same world.  You can follow the adventures of Clyde without knowing about the adventures of Luke Callindor.  Yet, many readers will see this and get confused about how they fit together.  Some may think this takes place afterwards too, which will hurt the story and result in people asking if Nyx will make an appearance (got this one already).  There really isn’t much you can do either because pushing them apart too much will make the stories feel like they aren’t supposed to be together.  You need to find a balance and simply hope that it carries over.

Second risk is the threat of ruining the continuity.  We’ve see it a lot in movies where you get prequels and they undo parts of the original.  The pieces don’t always match up like Legolas meeting Bilbo and the dwarves in ‘The Hobbit’.  He never told Frodo that he met his uncle or Gimli that he knew his father.  There wasn’t even a sense of familiarity when they were meeting to discuss The One Ring in LOTR.  The reason is because nobody knew ‘The Hobbit’ was going to come and have Legolas, which means there was nothing set up for the crossover.  I’m actually going to be posting tips for doing prequels on Wednesday, so I won’t go into details here.

Third risk . . . Well, the continuity thing covers a lot of ground.  You could end up making a prequel that causes the original work to become impossible or non-canon.  You could make the prequels so mild that they hold absolutely no weigh to the overall world.  The risks and challenges are so numerous, but they’re also oddly subtle.  You don’t see these issues happening while writing the newer series unless you keep going back to the original or do an outline that specifically focuses on continuity.  I did my best with that to make sure I didn’t ruin cities that I used in Legends of Windemere.  In fact, I did my best to minimize the use of them, but that isn’t easy when you have such large metropolises like Gaia and Gods’ Voice.  Needless to say, this aspect of a new, but connected series is fairly nerve-wracking.

So, let’s open up the floor to thoughts.  What do people think about prequels?  Keep in mind, I don’t mean the Star Wars prequels specifically.  I’m talking any like ‘The Hobbit’, Young Indiana Jones, etc.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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23 Responses to A Second Series That Comes Before the First: Dreaded Prequels

  1. As long as they work with the original story, without messing things up so it would change how things would have been at the time the original story takes place, I’m fine with them.

    For example: The Hobbit is fine, and works. But I saw a Peter Pan movie a while ago that was meant to be his origin story, except the timeline is all wrong, and the supposed prequel takes place several years after the time the original Peter Pan story is meant to have happened. It still bothers me, months and months after watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’m the opposite. Peter Pan stories
      have been done in so many ways that a prequel can’t really connect with any of them specifically. You have Disney, the books, Hook, the version on Once Upon a Time, etc. To me, each one is a stand-alone. With The Hobbit, I think they did a major screw up with continuity. Mostly with having Legolas in there. He meets Bilbo and Gloin. He even sees a picture of Gimli. Yet there’s nothing in LOTR to demonstrate that he had previous knowledge and connections.

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      • On the one hand that’s true. But nothing to indicate previous connections can be explained away easily enough. Messed up timelines can’t. The particular Peter Pan prequel I was thinking of was set in WWII, for example, which wouldn’t work because the original Peter Pan story – where he meets Wendy – takes place in Edwardian times. The Hobbit would work with the timeline, because it’s obvious it takes place before, and nothing in it totally messes up the possibility of things in LOTR happening when and how they did. That’s the kind of thing I was meaning. There’s more to consider with both the examples I mentioned, but that’s the points I was focussing on.

        Either way, my point remains: prequels are fine, as long as they can work with the original story without messing up timelines, origin stories for characters, and things like that.

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      • Honestly, I think the Sauron/ Necromancer does hurt LOTR. It means he’s had an encounter with Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, and Elrond. Yet, they don’t really do anything after that for 60 years. They act surprised that Sauron is back when they shouldn’t have been. The Hobbit could have worked so much better without that because it didn’t bring up questions about character continuity. It’s like they got limited amnesia.

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  2. I think Prequels are fascinating if done well. You did point out the problems in writing them very well. I have faith you can pull it off.

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  3. My only criteria is they be good. You’ve pointed out the risks, but some folks can overcome that. I try to keep an open mind about such things.

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    • Do you sometimes get the sense that fewer people can overcome such things? One of the reasons I wrote this post is because I’ve seen a lot of prequel backlash over the years. So, I’m wondering if the risks are greater these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is likely an ebb and flow to it. Timing might be important, but I’ve no idea how to gauge that. Backlash is running rampant in America right now. People bash before they even think. Usually it’s an attempt to steal the spotlight from someone who worked hard to earn it, while paying zero dues themselves.

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      • I’ve notice a lot of knee jerk backlash. Sometimes it feels like a person is reacting to an idea that ‘threatens’ an interest. I’ve been seeing a lot of fear of various franchises being dethroned as the best, so some of the fans get overly aggressive. Prequels are an easy target to bash a competitor.

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  4. For me, it depends on the type of prequel. If it’s a direct prequel it has to be done right, but if it’s an indirect prequel like what you’re writing, which doesn’t have the same characters or touch on events directly preceding those of the main series, I give them more leeway and enjoy them more.

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  5. Reblogged this on DSM Publications and commented:
    Author Charles Yallowitz discusses prequels in this great post from his Legends of Windemere blog.

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  6. L. Marie says:

    As everyone else has said, prequels work when they’re done well. I can’t help thinking of The Magician’s Nephew, a prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I don’t think of The Hobbit
    (the book) as a prequel, though the events of the story came before LoTR, because it was written first. But yes, the movies were prequels. I liked some aspects of the movies and disliked other aspects.

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    • The Hobbit/LOTR prequel bit was more about movies than books. Tolkien connected everything very nicely in his books. Honestly, I was going to use the Star Wars movies, but I know that’s a tricky one these days.

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  7. I don’t mind a prequel as long as it lends something new to the later story. If it’s just expanding on things that were already talked about and didn’t really need expanding, it can get boring.
    I loved “The Hobbit”… More than “Lord of the Rings.” But, that may be because I read it first and it was told in a more succinct narrative than spreading it over 3 books with unnecessary amounts singing, sleeping and walking… (I’m sorry… I have a love/hate relationship with the lord of the rings).

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    • I’m actually the opposite. As hard as it was to get through the LOTR movies for me, I enjoyed the movies a lot. It covered the story without too much deviation and stayed solid. ‘The Hobbit’ felt like an attempt to recapture the original magic with stretched material and unnecessary additions. At least for me, this hurt both trilogies because it made one wonder why certain things in ‘Hobbit’ weren’t mentioned in ‘LOTR’. This is way an expansion can be dangerous. If you add a lot to a prequel then you need to explain why those things are never used or brought up in the sequel. For example, why does nobody talk about the Necromancer or Legolas mention knowing Gimli’s father? It makes the additions come off as being done for ‘ah-ha’ moments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was talking about the books as opposed to the movies. Ha ha! I guess we should get on the same page! The Hobbit movies had a lot of content from “the Silmarillion” which I think was a silly thing to do, as it was a half finished manuscript that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day to begin with… The book is much better and the stories compliment each other, unlike the nonsense they added into the later film. They just wanted to be able to extend it into more films to make more money.

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      • Did the movie have a lot form the Silmarillion? I actually read that they couldn’t use anything from that because the Tolkien estate still has the movie rights to everything in that book. They aren’t letting that information get into the movies, so ‘The Hobbit’ had to make up its own stuff. The books are definitely better. That extension of ‘The Hobbit’ is the big reason I had a hard time getting through the 2nd and 3rd movies. I think it would have worked best if they stayed at 2.

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      • They DEFINITELY had stuff from the Simarillion in there. So, I’m not sure how they managed!!

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      • That’s really strange. Unless it was stuff that was in the Simarillion (not the Simpsons, autocorrect!) and the Return of the King appendices. I only read the Simarillion once, so I don’t remember much, but there could be crossover info.

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