The Nightmare Dilemma - Tor/Forge Blog



Building the World of a Series

Building the World of a Series

Written by Mindee Arnett

When I started writing the first book in my Arkwell Academy series, The Nightmare Affair, I had no idea what the prevailing themes of the series would be. Like most writers, I simply took my idea and ran with it. But by the time I finished the first book and started on the sequel, I began to recognize one of the major, underlying themes at work. And imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d laid the foundation for this theme all the way back in chapter two and quite without realizing it.

Even more surprising is that the theme centers on racial identity and racism—kind of weird for a story about magic and murder. But then again, maybe not. You see, when I was first figuring out the mechanics of my world and how my main character, Dusty, fit into it as a half-human, half-Nightmare, it made perfect sense to create a classification system for all the various types of magical creatures based on shared characteristics. I mean, that’s how the real world works, right? It seems every other day we’re asked to fill out an ethnicity/race data collection form. Self-identification is important to us as human beings (for reasons best not explored here), and I didn’t think magical creatures would be any different.

So I decided that the magickind of my story would identify themselves into one of three main groups based on the way they fuel their magic. There are Witchkinds, including wizards, witches, and psychics whose power is self-fueled; Naturekinds, such as fairies, dryads, and mermaids who derive power from nature; and Darkkinds, such as demons, werewolves, sirens, and Nightmares who draw their magic from other living creatures.

At first, this organization seemed rather harmless and downright useful from a storytelling standpoint. I soon discovered that the various groups feel pretty strongly about their identity and have historically harbored deep-rooted prejudices toward one another. Witchkinds tend to think they’re superior because their magic comes from within themselves, while Naturekinds think they’re better because nature and the elements are so ancient and powerful. And of course everybody looks down on Darkkinds because their magic is predatory. You can imagine the resentments such divisions have created.

Although I never had any intention of grappling with such a major theme as racism, as I move forward with the series, I’m very happy to have this source of external conflict and upheaval. It’s provided me with ways to layer my story and to put plenty of obstacles and challenges in Dusty’s way. And as a writer, it’s given me a path to follow as I traverse the dark and mysterious journey of crafting a series.

Buy the Arkwell Academy series from:

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Follow Mindee on Twitter at @MindeeArnett, on Facebook, or visit her website.

(This is a rerun of a post that originally ran on March 4, 2013.)


The Sequel Dilemma

The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett

Written by Mindee Arnett

With the pending release of my second book in the Arkwell Academy series, The Nightmare Dilemma, I’ve been thinking a lot about sequels. You know, the basic questions, like what makes a good one and what doesn’t. I suppose one could argue that the simplest way to ensure a good sequel is to not set the bar too high with the first story. Take Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for example. After that snoozefest, The Wrath of Khan could’ve been about Kirk and his crew battling it out with rabid, zombie Tribbles and it would’ve been successful. However, setting the bar low isn’t something any storyteller—filmmaker or novelist—would do on purpose. (Unless you happen to be Uwe Boll, but we won’t go there.)

No, the real answer, I’m afraid, is that there is no definitive answer. Instead there seem to be some common ingredients in good sequels.

The first of these is what I like to call The Domino Effect. This is where the events of the first story inevitably cause the events of the second. One of my favorite film examples of this is the way the events in The Wrath of Kahn led to The Search for Spock, which in turn led to The Voyage Home. Granted, The Search for Spock is an overall suck fest, one involving Christopher Lloyd playing a Klingon, no less, but the Klingon flea trap of a ship the crew ends up on for The Voyage Home is a brilliant idea that supplies at least half of the plot. Watching the three movies in succession makes for a satisfying experience. By the end I feel like I’ve lived the life of these characters I know and love.

Another key ingredient for a successful sequel is the feeling that the sequel must exist because the story just isn’t done yet. It hardly seems necessary to give examples here, but if you need some, look no further than The Lord of the Rings and the original Star Wars Trilogy. Leaving a story-goer with unresolved conflicts almost always leads to satisfaction when they are finally resolved. For good book examples of “essentialness,” look no further than The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer and the The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

On a side note, I think a complete lack of essentialness is the single biggest cause of sequel disaster. My favorite (read: most hated) movie example of this is the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Curse of the Black Pearl was good. The story felt complete. I want Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann to have that ending forever.

Speaking of characters, this leads me to the final ingredient for a successful sequel—taking the characters to a new place. I want to see them face a new challenge, like Batman taking on the Joker in The Dark Knight. I want to see them grow stronger, like Sarah Conner transforming from bad-perm-rocking wimpy girl into chin-up-queen badass. I sometimes even want to watch them regress, like Michael Corleone’s downward slide into corruption in The Godfather Part II.

Of course as I said before, these are just ingredients for a good sequel, not the recipe. Putting them all together is on the storyteller. These ingredients are doubly important when it comes to books, where you can’t hide plot holes and poor character development behind stunning visual effects and action scenes. For my own sequel, all I can say is that these ingredients are there, and it’s up to the reader to determine if it’s up to tastes. Here’s to hoping so.


From the Tor/Forge February 17th newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.


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Waiting on Wednesday: The Nightmare Dilemma Sweepstakes

The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee ArnettMindee Arnett’s The Nightmare Dilemma doesn’t hit shelves until March 4th, but we have a chance for you to win a copy now!

We have two copies to give away. To enter for the chance to win one, comment below and tell us what your Waiting on Wednesday pick is this week.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 or older as of the date of entry. To enter, complete entry here beginning at 10:00 AM Eastern Time (ET) January 29, 2014. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET February 4, 2014. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Three Nightmares You Can’t Resist

Three by Kristen Simmons The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett Resistance by Jenna Black

Heat up your winter by joining three exciting Tor Teen authors for special bookstore events this March!

Tor Books is thrilled to announce the THREE NIGHTMARES YOU CAN’T RESIST tour, featuring three amazing YA titles: Kristen Simmons’ Three, Mindee Arnett’s The Nightmare Dilemma, and Jenna Black’s Resistance. The three authors will be speaking and signing books as they take to the road on a week-long tour.

Join them, and Tor Teen to see the wide variety of young adult fiction that even the most reluctant reader won’t be able to put down.

Three Nightmares You Can’t Resist Tour

Tuesday, March 11: Lexington – Joseph-Beth

Wednesday, March 12: Cincinnati – Joseph-Beth

Thursday, March 13: Dayton – Books & Co

Friday, March 14: Louisville – Carmichael’s

Monday, March 17: Chapel Hill – Flyleaf


About the Books and Their Authors
Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen Hardcover ▪ ISBN: 978-0-7653-2960-8 ▪ E-book ISBN: 978-1-4299-4803-6 ▪ On-sale: February 11, 2014

The thrilling conclusion to Kristen Simmons’s post-apocalyptic YA trilogy (Article 5, Breaking Point), set in a future American in which the Bill-of-Rights has been replaced by the Moral Statutes, and young Ember and her boyfriend have been branded criminals. Now, joined up with the resistance movement, they are trying to find a safe place to settle—but they may be coming closer to facing the notorious organization known only as Three. The CW Atlanta has dubbed Simmons: “A true dystopian force.”

Kristen Simmons has a master’s degree in social work and is an advocate for mental health. She lives with her husband, Jason, and their precious greyhound Rudy in Tampa, Florida. She is the author of Article 5, Breaking Point, and Three.

The Nightmare Dilemma
Mindee Arnett
Tor Teen Hardcover ▪ ISBN: 978-0-7653-3334-6 ▪ E-book ISBN: 978-1-4668-0068-7▪ On-sale: March 4, 2014

The second in the new fantastical mystery series that began with The Nightmare Affair, this thrilling series isn’t your typical paranormal YA thanks to the incredible writing chops of author Mindee Arnett and her talents for weaving a riveting story with a cast of compelling and highly-relatable teens. She takes us once again into the world of Nightmares, Sirens, Wizards and Demons at Arkwell Academy—a place very wondrous and strange, but where teens still struggle with some of the same problems as in the real world.

Mindee Arnett lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats. She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic and the macabre. Her short stories have appeared in various magazines. Arnett has a Master of Arts in English literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She blogs and tweets, and is hard at work on the next novel in the Arkwell Academy series.

Jenna Black
Tor Teen Trade Paperback ▪ ISBN: 978-0-7653-3372-8 ▪ E-book ISBN: 978-1-4668-0490-6 ▪ On-sale: March 11, 2014

Resistance is the second installment in acclaimed author of the Faeriewalker series Jenna Black’s new SF romance series, which started with Replica. Black has created a unique near-future world, controlled by corporations, where the rich have technology to return to life as synthetic replicas of themselves. A young man who found himself murdered and reborn as a replica now begins to work with a rebellion movement to overthrow the classist system.

Jenna Black received her Bachelor of Arts in physical anthropology and French from Duke University. She is the author of the Faeriewalker series for teens as well as the Morgan Kingsley urban fantasy series.

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