The Lure of the Prequel

The Bell Mountain Series - Reformed Reviews

I’ve been chewing over this idea for years now, and a few readers have encouraged me in it. Why not write a Bell Mountain book about things that happened before the events so far related in the series?

The story that pulls me the hardest is that of King Ozias, who lived 2,000 years before Jack and Ellayne et al. Ozias had a thousand enemies, and a thousand narrow escapes. But he trusted in God, he obeyed the directions of the Spirit, and God delivered him out of all his dangers–and promised that his line of descent would continue down the centuries, and never fail. Yes, I think I’d like to write that.

But there’s also the story–well, there must be one–behind Ellayne’s favorite book, The Adventures of Abombalbap. Was there ever such a person as Abombalbap, who was raised and trained in warrior arts by the Seven Hags of Ballamadda? Were his adventures inspired by real events? What was life in Obann like, centuries after the Day of Fire and centuries before King Ryons?

And here’s me, wondering if I should try to write these books. It would mean departing from the story arc that has so far held together 13 books in a series. It strikes me as a rather large risk to take.

Abombalbap would be on it in a heartbeat.

14 comments on “The Lure of the Prequel

    1. It’s alluded to in most of the other books. It was the total destruction, 1,000 years ago, of Obann’s Empire and its advanced modern civilization.

  1. Mixed feelings on this one. I’d definitely like to know more about Ozias, just as I’d would love to jam with David in the restitution of all things. But it depends upon how you do it. Some of the popular movie franchises have done prequels and, IMO, have risked cheapening the concept, straining the narrative to expand the story arc.

    One other approach, would be to include a prequel into the current story arc, with elaborate telling of past events, which shed light upon both the past, and the contemporary period of the story line. Every chapter starts in the present (from the perspective of the story arc), but some chapters are heavily populated with events from the past.

    1. That’d be a challenge, if nothing else.
      They did make a fairly successful prequel to Lord of the Rings out of The Silmarillion–but then Tolkien had always intended to The Silmarillion to come first.

    2. To my way of thinking, the challenge would be one of not allowing the narrative to become too enmeshed. I avoid sequel movies, for two reasons. One is, that many sequels seem bound and determined to relive every high point in the original. If there was a moment that got a great laugh in the original, they try to improve upon that moment and end up gutting the original moment of its charm. The natural flow of the sequel is sacrificed because of this need to revisit every past high point.

      The second is that many sequels try to tie into every plot point. With a prequel, the danger is even greater. For example, if a contemporary moment in the story arc refers to a significant past event, the prequel will revisit that past event, present it in great detail and try to tighten the bonds of the narrative. Once again, this can easily interrupt the flow of the prequel and it also looks down future plot developments.

      I have seen a few of the Star Wars series and felt that they indulged these tendencies far too often. I’m not “into” Star Wars. I’ve never waited in line for the next release and, beyond the original, I don’t think that I’ve watched them before they were released for home viewing. There is enough arcana in my profession; I don’t need to spend my time maintaining a level of expertise in order to comprehend the significance of trivia in a series of movies.

      OTOH, the Men In Black trilogy acknowledges the story line of the original, but each installment was its own story and you didn’t have to be an insider to enjoy any installment. It didn’t demand much of me as a viewer and yet, it successfully expanded upon the original story. Perhaps what I liked best, is that the writers didn’t try to outdo previous installments at every turn.

    3. And I don’t feel that you’ve fallen into the traps I mention. That seems to be especially common when the creators rely upon very detailed market research.

    4. And that’s the charm of it. Market driven creative works can easily lose their core identity. Look at music. The Pop and Country of today is so predictable that you can sing along to a song you never heard before.

  2. I would love to read about Obann before its destruction, especially about the temple, how the Scriptures were written, and the underground tunnels and meeting rooms. It seems what life was like then would fill a book. I think Unknowable’s suggestions are intriguing as well.

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