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Writing the Beginning of a Sequel

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Vader, Dec 15, 2020.

  1. Vader

    Vader New Member

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    Hi, so I'm trying to figure out how to write the first chapter of a sequel that I've written. I have the characters talking about things that happened in the first book. But my writers group says it sounds like a "As you know Bob" Does anyone have any advice? How do you tackle this?

    Thanks.

    Nick
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Lynea

    Lynea Sage

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    Could we perhaps see the first few paragraphs? It's perfectly fine to reference what happened in the first book, but frontloading the first few paragraphs with it is something you probably need to avoid. Approach your sequel with the assumption that your audience has read the first book so that you can focus on the story of this current book.
     
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  3. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

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    Imagine you're watching the second movie in a series. Should it start with James Bond sitting at a cafe and telling his friend what he did in the last movie for 10 minutes? No, because that would be boring, you're here to see James Bond do some cool stuff, not tell you how cool the last movie was.

    A story's opening should leave the reader with a question that drives them to want to keep reading. I have Dune sitting next to me, and in the first sentence you learn that "an old crone" is going to visit Paul. On the first page you learn that the castle has held 26 generations of Atreides, Paul wonders "What's a gom jabbar?" The setting is unique and evocative, there is the air of something important, something epic and mystical is about to happen. You want to learn more.

    Your characters probably have stuff to do since this is a sequel. Maybe the Big Problem from the first book wasn't solved, or something came around and ruined their happily ever after. I mean, look at Shrek 2. They literally had a happily ever after in the first movie but something draws them elsewhere (the "call to adventure"), which then introduces new characters and new conflicts. You learn what you need to know about the characters as the story goes on. What is making your characters do things? Start with that. Try to "arrive late, leave early." You can probably cut the start of a lot of scenes (and the ends of them) and make things tighter and going faster. Think of the opening to Birdemic, we didn't need to see the guy putting gas in his car and driving to the restaurant. Start with the good stuff.
     
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  4. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    I think a lot depends on what you mean by a sequel. Some writers, like JRR Tolkien and David Eddings, effectively write one long story divided across several books. In those cases the sequels follow on almost directly and you don't need any form of looking back. Other writers, like David Gemmel, keep the same overall setting and sometimes the same characters but separate the various books in time and place. That requires a different sort of opening and, somewhere in the story, references to previous events.

    When I wrote my first sequel I made a deliberate decision that it wouldn't follow directly from the first book. Yes, the reader would meet many of the same characters, but there would be a gap in time and the action would happen somewhere other than the setting for the first book. What I wanted to achieve was a sequel which could also be read without having read the first book, but which at the same time developed the characters from the first book. That proved to be a more tricky balancing act than I'd expected, but it worked in the end, and I've taken the same approach with the subsequent books.
     
  5. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    Rule 1 - assume the reader has read the first book.

    Rule 2 (for me) - leave some threads unresolved from the first book which can be used to keep the action running.

    Rule 3 - take these threads off in a completely new and unexpected direction. Find some bigger and more transcendent truth for things that happened in the first book - even apparently insignificant things.

    Rule 4 - don't be satisfied with your plot until it is better than the first book.
     
  6. Chris O'Brien

    Chris O'Brien Dreamer

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  7. Chris O'Brien

    Chris O'Brien Dreamer

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    As a rule, I try to avoid perfecting things as I go along. What's important is the book is finished. So, fine, discuss things with friends from a broad view perspective, but I PERSONALLY wouldn't worry about these details you've outlined until the book is finished.

    However perfectly you write it, you'll want to edit it when you've finished. If you stop at every detail and over worry about semantics, the book will take longer.
     
  8. Vader

    Vader New Member

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    Thanks for the help everyone. I think I figured it out.
     
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