Fools Friday: Failed Sequels

Oh boy. Today’s a fun topic. If you read my post last year summarizing the history of Our Company of Fools, you might remember that I mentioned my attempts at a sequel never panned out. For today’s Fools Friday, I want to dive a bit deeper into the directions I considered for a sequel and why they failed.

Our Company of Fools was written as a standalone, and I didn’t necessarily intend to share it with anyone when I first wrote it. After finishing the book, though, I felt inspired to attempt a sequel series that followed Leah through her college days and explored the Dream World the Fools fight their demons in. I had two spins on a sequel series: one focused on Leah at Tryon University, and the other focused on Leah’s future relationship with the Fools.

The Tryon arc was first inspired by my college experiences at Baylor University as an orientation leader, and the plot involved Leah stepping back into the Dream World to continue fighting demons for other students she interacted with. The story also significantly expanded the lore of the Dream World, filling in the gaps that the first book purposely leaves vague. Leah and Hallie’s two-headed demon, the Whine and the Bass, also return as the main villain.

There were a lot of problems with this sequel series from the start. First, the second book was CRAMMED with world-building and seemed to explain way too much in too short a time. Also, Leah is the only returning character; the Fools weren’t in it except for scenes where Leah chatted with them online. It was also tricky writing Leah as a reluctant hero, especially after her character arc in the first book. It didn’t make sense to me, and it felt forced.

Some positives about this sequel series: it did help me think through some world-building gaps in Our Company of Fools. Though much of the Dream World is unexplained, certain elements—like the Dream Weapons (Leah’s giant pencil, Faith’s sketchbook, etc.)—did come from my world-building in the sequel series. I also liked many of Leah’s college characters who in the sequel series and would like to reuse them in a different story someday. The Dream World still holds some appeal, too, though I’m not as keen to recycle that. (Maybe a spin-off series? Who knows. It will be years before I pursue that idea, if at all.)

The Tryon arc of Leah’s story was my main and only sequel focus for a while, but as I edited Our Company of Fools, another character emerged: Jon. Jon is one of Leah’s Fool friends who doesn’t make it to the workshop and who she starts to feel disconnected with. He wasn’t in the originally draft, either. I added him based on feedback on the first few chapters of the book. Jon also later became the inspiration for a Fools sequel. Struggling with my own changing friendships as I grew older and graduated from college, I wanted to write a story where Leah and Jon meet again at a future Fools workshop and Leah must help him through his own demon battle, all while she navigates changing relationships with the Fools from the first book.

I liked this idea because it tied into the original Our Company of Fools more than Leah’s Tryon arc and because it featured the Fools again. However, on the negative side, Leah going back to a Fools workshop does cheapen the cost and emotional struggle of Our Company of Fools. That being said, if I ever do commit to write an Our Company of Fools sequel, the story would probably be similar to this one.

Before I gave up completely on the sequel series, I did consider merging the Tryon and Fools arcs of the series to make the Fools Saga a five-book tale. In the end, the problems and issues with the books outweighed the benefits, and I opted to keep Our Company of Fools standalone, as it was intended to be from the start.

The time spent on these sequels wasn’t wasted though. Writing and plotting practice is always helpful, and it did give me an eye to think through how series should work together, notice plot holes more easily, and think about character arc progressions across multiple books. Plus, as I said, the Dream World still holds some appeal to me, and I may end up writing a different series using aspects of that world and the characters who came from the Tryon arc. Someday.

But for now, I don’t have any plans for a Fools sequel or a Dream World series anytime soon. Never say never though—older Leah may have a story to share someday.

Thanks for reading this week’s Fools Friday post! Huzzah!