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Writing Sequels

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Carl Brothers, Nov 11, 2020.

  1. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    When it comes to sequels, what's your opinion on backstories already covered in the earlier book?
    Hate it because it's a waste of time?
    Love it because it saves having to re-read earlier books?
     
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  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Short references for the relevant parts are acceptable. Longer expositions work if central to the books plot or theme - 'when this happened, we believed that, but in light of what we just went through...'
     
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  3. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I put in little reminders of past events. The idea is to give just enough to jog the reader's memory, but not so much as to telling them what they already know.
    A nice side effect of this is that for longer series it helps add a little depth to the character as the reader is reminded of past things they took part in.
     
  4. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    What’s necessary. It gets really, really annoying to read recaps over and over.
     
  5. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    Yeah. It's a tough balancing act not to reveal what could be considered spoilers too. It's tough.
     
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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Just ask yourself how much reminding Tolkien did in LotR. Do that.
     
  7. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Troubadour

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    If it's about a backstory, then it's not really a sequel, is it? That would be a prequel. It would just be published later, chronologically in real world time, but not necessarily be the second book someone might read far into the future when lots of stuff is published.

    Unless your plan is to write tiny once-a-month chapter books like Animorphs, your first book should stand on its own. Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star and everything is okay....for now, at least. Yeah, there's more, bigger problems to deal with, but there's a "happily ever after...for now." You have no guarantee that you'll ever get that second one published! Or that a reader will read it. But for prequels, it shouldn't be required reading, but should add to things or give a deeper understanding. Knowing that Anakin was good at podracing doesn't tell you a lot about Darth Vader, but seeing his whole life makes him more human (and also makes his "redemption" kind of questionable. I mean, he did kill all those younglings. Can he really be forgiven? That's up to you to decide).

    Always operate under the assumption that someone isn't going to read your other books, or your twitter or wiki or whatever. That also means the prequel should stand on its own (they beat Darth Maul or whatever) and doesn't require the reader to have read other stuff.
     
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  8. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    I always leave a few questions dangling in book one, which paves the way for the sequel, but I don't do much reminding of what happened in book one. In fact, I've only completed one sequel - almost - and it just flowed on fairly seamlessly. Very few reference to what happened before unless required by the dialogue/context.

    I have left space in all my other books though, for sequels, and mapped them out. But it's such a lot of work given my usual wordcount and complicated plots. I prefer to put most of my energy into writing that new breakthrough book that will demand sequels and send everyone scurrying back to my backlist.
     
  9. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    It depends on the kind of sequel you write.

    In my opinion there's two types of sequels. You have the "This is one single continuous story just chopped in pieces so it's easier to hold" kind of sequel. Lord of the Rings is this. And then there's the "these are all independent books which follow the same character / world / etc" sequel. Harry Potter fits in this category.

    For the first type, these are books that are meant to be read as a single story (more or less). In these I would simply continue from where the previous one left off. I might include a part right at the beginning of "What happened before". But it's one story, so the stuff that happened in the previous book is not backstory, it's just story.

    For the second type, I would assume that not all readers have read the previous parts. Which means that there will be some repetition of backstory. However, I would treat it like any other pieces of backstory. That is, in limited quantities, scattered throughout the book and only if it's relevant to the story I'm telling. Of course, it's nice to drop hints of what has come before, or just have a favorite character from a previous book make a quick cameo. It will make your fans who read everything notice while others will just skip over it. It's like a reference to Rincewind in a random Discworld novel. It adds spice for those who notice.
     
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  10. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    Completely agree with this.
     
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  11. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Troubadour

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    I prefer to write stories which are fairly independent of one another, but that means that any recurring characters have to be detailed enough in each book to enable the story to stand alone. It does mean you have to be consistent in certain details (e.g. what they wear, what they eat etc). I sometimes refer back to earlier events, but thats usually to explain why something has happened or why someone is acting in a certain way. A lot depends on your setting too, and how you use that as both background and a way to drive the plot forwards
     
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  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    For me, I prefer it when things that happened in the past keep coming up again. The villain in book 1 is now the informant in book 2. The villain in book 3 was a side character in book 2. Stuff like that. Cliffhangers are annoying, sure, but when the books are almost completely separate, it feels too much like a do over. Sherlock Holmes and whichever case he's on this time. I want more continuity than that. I want to see the characters develop across the time I spend with them.

    I'm planning Smughitter across five books. It's only by the end of the first book that their five-book mission becomes clear to the reader (although some will realize it early). Each book has its own throughline, but there's definitely going to be too much to stop and recap everything all the time. The story escalates in each book, from being a cop and a renegade in a little city to a war spanning five countries, ancient magics, and the secret histories of their fairy demigods.

    The point of the friggin' sequels is to tell a bigger story than one book will hold. I'm just going to have to ask readers to get on board with that.
     
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    An advantage for X-Ray readers, if the author bothers, is that they can insert a bunch of reminder information into characters and places and events referenced in previous books without packing the pages for readers who still recall those events. It doesn't do a lick of good for print readers, of course. I've received a few questions over time from past it. Which also happens a lot. A reader once asked a question and I was like damn! Did I not put that in? I raced to skim the book and... it was there. They missed it completely.
     
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  14. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    The first book does stand on its own. But when writing the sequel, I'm wondering how much callbacks I need to do to the first book. From a reader's perspective, I'm wondering if it'll be annoying or they'd appreciate it. Maybe it's more a function of how much time passed between releases?
     
  15. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    Can you sequel stand alone?
     
  16. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    there are such things as continuity and consequences.

    A few months ago, I read the first two books in a series of thrillers - titles escape me at the moment. The first, the heroes were a bit late figuring things out; the consequences of which were massive riots and worldwide casualties (fatalities) well into the nine digit range (hundreds of millions) plus the sort of political mess that would take months to years of martial law to resolve - basically a partial collapse of civilization. I went, 'okay, this should make for an interesting backdrop for book 2.' Instead, book 2 went with a full reset, picked up a year later, and utterly ignored the devastating situation at the end of book 1. I didn't go for book 3.
     
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  17. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    I don't think so. It simply comes down to whether the sequel can be read by itself. Same character/different context will not require much back reference (eg, the Flashman books), but same character / continuing context will likely need quite a lot for new readers, which may be irritating for ongoing readers.

    Less is very much more.
     
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  18. The Dark One

    The Dark One Archmage

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    Yes, but the experience would be considerably richer for someone who'd read the first book as the characters and overall story grow considerably over the two books.
     
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  19. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    I had to deal with this in my 'Empire' series. Book 1 ended with a magical massacre and the capture of one of the people responsible. In Book 2, the Emperor takes a personal interest in the case, hence a portion of the book includes the evil-doers sentencing, and includes surviving secondary characters from Book 1. Additionally, a discovery in Book 1 provided an economic/social opportunity for certain characters in Book 2. Hence, in Book 2 I tossed in enough references to explain what was going on.

    Book 3 superficially revolves around...issues...with the economic opportunity that came up in Book 2 - hence more references. Book 3 ends with a cliffhanger of sorts that had to be explained in Book 4 - went with incorporating that explanation into the first chapter as part of a failed effort to fix the situation. Book 4 in turn ended with another cliffhanger, which I again resolved with an introductory chapter in Book 5.
     
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  20. Carl Brothers

    Carl Brothers Scribe

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    Interesting... Seems like your approach is very tactful. How much time passed between releases if I may ask. And did that matter for you?
     
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