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In my earlier post, Knowing When to Quit, Part One, I talked about redundancy. This time I'll discuss another way to overwork a story -- creating over the top scenarios or plot lines, which don't connect well with the earlier story. This can be especially problematic when you're writing a series. There simply comes a point when your story, even if it's a series, has to end. Otherwise it may become absurd or even bizarre.
A good example is a story familiar to most of us. Star Trek.
I grew up watching the original Star Trek. The characters, human and alien, were interesting and believable; so much so that they've became iconic. However, by the third season, the writers seemed to be running out of ideas, and the ridiculous storylines in some of the episodes hurt the integrity of the series. NBC cancelled the show. It then went into syndication where its following grew. The movies started about ten years later. The original characters were back, but they were older and had changed over time, which kept them interesting. The final original cast film, The Undiscovered Country, completed their storyline with a well thought out ending. In the meantime, three new television series, Star Trek the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, created a plethora of interesting new characters with plenty of potential for exciting new stories. They were followed by a series of movies featuring the Next Generation cast.
Sadly, it was all lost, at least for me, with Star Trek Enterprise, and the current movie series. Enterprise, the fifth TV series, was a prequel, and prequels, regardless of the genre, can be problematic. To me, it was lackluster, and I soon lost interest. The new movies, also prequels, featured younger versions of the original characters. They too were disappointing. The stories take place in a "parallel universe," so all of the interesting back-story established in the original series is gone. I found it too confusing, and certainly not the Star Trek I'd known and loved for decades.
This is what happens when you run out of ideas. You lose the integrity of your story, and you risk losing your following. As storytellers, the two hardest words for us to write are, "The End," but write them we must, as all stories must end. Otherwise, in the words on my college painting professor, you really can turn your work into mud.