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Writing the Beginning of a Sequel

Vader

New Member
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
 

Lynea

Sage
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.
 

Chasejxyz

Inkling
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.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
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.
 
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.
 
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
 
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.
 
For the first time I am writing the third part of a trilogy.

I've had a number of first novels published and mapped out the sequels to most of them, but for the first time I've actually started book 3.

Strange new ground for this writer, with book one not even out yet. October...I'm told.

But I stand by my comments above at #5 - I'll be trying to take the story down amazing new paths to surprise and delight my readers.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
Tell me, how did you manage to achieve the continuation, without binding? tell me an example of a story where this method was successfully used. Thank you!
I'll admit that I copied the method from David Gemmell. As I wrote earlier, I established the main characters and some of their background in the first novel. Then, when I wrote the second novel I took the same main characters but started the story in a different place and at a later date. Some comments and events in the second novel refer back to events or remarks the first novel, but not so many that you need to have read the first novel. Then I did the same with the third novel.

If you want a best selling set of examples of how to do this, look no further than David Gemmell's three books about his character Waylander (Waylander, In The Realm of the Wolf and Hero in the Shadows).
 

cak85

Minstrel
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

The writing Podcast - Writing Excuses - has really good advice about this one! I forgot which episode it is, so maybe check it out!

One solution to fix an "As you know Bob..." is to have a few characters discussing something while they are doing something relevant to the plot and adding some conflict.

Could you have your characters walking, talking and observing the consequences of the first book? Like if it was a big battle, maybe they are walking through a refugee camp and they are noticing how many people have been displaced.

Hope that helps!
 

Gwynndamere

Dreamer
I have mostly ended my books with the next book in mind, so picking up where the last book ended. Or if the book has ended on its own, then, as noted above, starting the new book with an interesting hook, or something that makes the reader wonder what the characters were up to since the end of the last book, and working those details into the story as it progresses.
 
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