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Sometimes when a movie, play, concept album or novel becomes exceptionally successful, the creator of that work will create a follow-up work known as a sequel. A sequel generally picks up where the original work ended, as in the case of the blockbuster sci-fi movie The Empire Strikes Back or the novel Scarlett, a sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. Some authors, however, choose to create a new work which begins before the setting of the original movie, play or novel. A work which explores the early lives of established characters is called a prequel. An example of a prequel would be the 2008 movie Star Trek, which explores the early history of the original characters from the television series Star Trek. The prequel Batman Begins also predates the successful Batman movie franchise released years earlier.
A prequel can be a single work created to explain the back story of popular characters, or it may become the first in a new series of prequels. The new Batman film franchise, for example, may spawn several sequels according to its own story arc, but they will all be considered prequels to the original series which featured Batman as an adult. Sometimes an author will create a prequel after taking the original storyline to its logical conclusion. Author JK Rowling, for example, may choose to write a prequel to her Harry Potter series instead of taking the original characters into adulthood. A prequel would either explore the early lives of the main characters, or else be set a generation or two earlier and use characters only mentioned briefly in the original series.
The term prequel is considered to be a portmanteau, or new word, much like splashdown or cyberspace. Until recently, few authors or scriptwriters produced prequels as part of a series of works. Quite often, an original work would prove so popular that publishers or movie studio executives would commission sequels from either the original creators or a new set of writers for hire. These sequels may or may not be based on original source materials, but they would incorporate the characters and general setting of the original movie or novel. Such sequels may succeed or fail based on their faithfulness to the original work or other factors. A prequel, however, often demands that the commissioned writer have a solid understanding of the mythology surrounding the original work, as well the ability to create realistic younger versions of established characters.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a prequel?
A prequel is a literary, cinematic, or other form of narrative that is created after the original work but is set before the events of that original story. It aims to provide background, context, and deeper understanding of the characters or world by exploring events that lead up to the main narrative. Prequels can enrich a story's universe by revealing origins and setting the stage for the existing plotlines.
How does a prequel differ from a sequel?
While a sequel continues the story after the events of the original work, a prequel goes backward in time to explore what happened before the original story. Sequels often build upon the outcomes of their predecessors, advancing the narrative and character arcs. In contrast, prequels delve into the past, offering insights into character motivations, historical events, or foundational elements that shaped the narrative presented in the original work.
Can a prequel be successful without having seen or read the original work?
Yes, a well-crafted prequel can stand on its own, providing a complete and engaging story for newcomers. It should introduce characters and settings in a way that doesn't rely on prior knowledge. However, for those familiar with the original work, a prequel can offer a richer experience by deepening the understanding of the story and its characters, often with moments of revelation or foreshadowing that enhance the overall narrative.
What are some famous examples of prequels?
Famous examples of prequels include "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace," which is set before the original "Star Wars" trilogy, and "The Hobbit," which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote after "The Lord of the Rings" but is set earlier in the same fictional universe. These prequels explore the origins and backstories of characters and events that play significant roles in the subsequent stories.
Why do creators choose to make prequels?
Creators may choose to make prequels for various reasons, such as to explore a character's backstory, to flesh out a fictional universe, or to answer questions raised by the original work. Prequels can also revive interest in a franchise by introducing new storylines and characters while leveraging the established fan base's familiarity and nostalgia. They offer a creative avenue to expand a narrative without moving forward in time.