Elements Of A Strong Sequel19:01
Sequels are awesome. A continuation of an awesome book or movie that allows you to spend more time with the character you love in a world you adore? Sign me up please! There’s something amazing about being able to really sink into a world through multiple instalments, getting to know the people, the places, and the struggles better. Well-written sequels compliment and extend the story built in the first book. But, on the flip side, badly written sequels can put readers off the entire series. Writing a great sequel is definitely not any easy to thing to do. You have to try and live up to the first book while making the second book engaging, familiar, and unique in its own right. Every book is different, but there are some things that you should definitely keep in mind while writing the next instalment. Here is a list of a few I’ve come up with:
Break-Ups Shouldn’t Be Added Just For Conflict
This is a trend I personally have seen too much of, and really don’t enjoy. You’ve just spent an entire book or even more watching these characters FINALLY get together, or grow as a couple. And all of a sudden that hard work and emotional attachment is rendered void by a sudden, unnecessary break-up between instalments. It feels almost like a betrayal. We loved this pair, and now you split them up just for a bit of tension? Having characters break-up can work if it’s set up right, building up to it gradually either throughout the course of the sequel, or in the book before. But starting your sequel with the characters having magically broken up just so you can add a bit of angst or conflict is lazy writing and can seriously annoy your readers.
Characters Progress, Not Regress
Throughout the first book, the characters should be growing and changing so that, at the end of the book, they’re to how they were at the beginning. Not perfect certainly, but having learned something and developed as a person. This means that, in the second book, these same characters should be starting as the people they were at the end of the previous book. They will need to face new challenges and learn new things over the course of the sequel. The reset button shouldn’t exist for their personalities. Having a character learn to put other people before themselves, and then coming into book two and finding they’re a selfish little so-and-so again is frustrating for readers.
Major Changes Should Feel Natural
Having read the previous book/s, readers feel like they have a pretty good handle on the world and the characters. So springing a surprise on them like a character suddenly switching sides, a large personality change, or a switch in focus from one major problem to another, has to feel natural for readers to accept it. This doesn’t mean that you have to signpost it overtly, but the changes do need to be foreshadowed carefully, either in the previous book, if you plan your series in advance, or throughout the course of the sequel, so that when the reveal happens, readers can see that this isn’t spur of the moment, but actually makes sense.
The Sequel Should Contain A Full Story
A sequel is, of course, a continuation in some form, of the story that you presented in the first book. However, just like the first book needs to have a complete story that has a climax and a resolution, so too does your sequel. Readers have to be able to finish the book feeling satisfied that what you gave them was a story in its own right, as well as being part of a series. Every book in the series needs to have a point, a story to tell, rather than just being there as filler, its only purpose to get you on to the cool action in book three.
Continuity is Key
Readers are smart people and they remember a whole lot more details than even the writer does sometimes. So they’re going to notice if you suddenly change a part of a character’s backstory, rewrite events that happened in a previous book, or if you start adding elements that make sense in the world you presented previously. A good sequel continues the storyline and world seamlessly.
These are just a few of the elements that stand out to me as things writers should consider when writing a sequel. There are certainly plenty of other helpful things to think about. These blog posts and articles have a bunch of helpful advice if you’re looking for more:
Looking for more in the series? Check out some of the other posts HERE.
What other elements do you think go into making a great sequel? What are some sequels you think are really well written (books or movies)? Have you ever written a sequel? Are you planning to write one in the future? Do you enjoy series, or are you more of a stand-alone book kind of person?