My Writers Circle

Writing => All the Write Questions => Topic started by: Max_with_word_processor on December 30, 2013, 11:58:33 PM

Title: Sequels
Post by: Max_with_word_processor on December 30, 2013, 11:58:33 PM
Should a sequel be able to stand alone as a complete story with no (or minimal) reliance on the previous story?

And where you have the same characters, would you re-introduce them and show their important traits again, or do you assume the reader has some previous knowledge?

If some events from the first story are important to the sequel, do you re-introduce it as back-story?

I expect you can do it either way to some extent, where some sequels are an extension of the first volume, and some are new stories, but I'm interested in your opinions, especially on re-introducing characters and events.
Title: Re: Sequels
Post by: Chizzy on December 31, 2013, 12:13:37 AM
Well, I guess it depends if there's an arc that covers several sequels (Harry Potter) or if each sequel is a self-contained narrative (Jack Reacher).

In the first few books of Harry Potter, JK Rowling uses the first or second chapter to reintroduce some characters, terminology, scenario etc. By the time she gets to Book Six, she must have decided that if you don't know what's going on, you probably shouldn't be starting at Book Six.

On the other hand, in the last year, after years of nagging from my mum, I started reading Ian Rankine's Rebus novels, but the only one they had in my local library was the most recent. So I was joining the series at Book Eighteen or something like that. And it didn't matter. I probably missed some references but not enough that it spoiled my enjoyment.

So yeah. I guess it depends.
Title: Re: Sequels
Post by: Skip Slocum on December 31, 2013, 12:23:39 AM
Since you're asking for opinions, I would write the sequel to/for the people who missed the first story.

This way the second story stands on its own.
Title: Re: Sequels
Post by: Wolfe on December 31, 2013, 03:19:46 AM
Should a sequel be able to stand alone as a complete story with no (or minimal) reliance on the previous story?

You want each novel to stand alone. Should a previous novel's event be key to the current novel's plot, reference it and nothing more. If you tell the timeline in the present work, there's no need for the reader to buy the prior ones.

For a reader to understand everything, they should read all the stories involved in a series. Hints dropped should entice readers into buying previous books. But don't give away past plots because you're also giving away any additional income. Think about it: If you tell all in one book, why even have a series? All a reader would need to do is buy the latest book and all is revealed.

That defeats the purpose of a series.
Title: Re: Sequels
Post by: Jo Bannister on December 31, 2013, 04:30:22 PM
I tend to work in series, at least partly because publishers like it.  People who come in later in the sequence may well go back and buy the earlier books.

And just how much you treat each book as self-contained needs a fair bit of thought.  You don't want it to read like one issue of a serial: that would simply irritate new readers.  But nor do you want to repeat in infinite detail material that your faithful readers are already familiar with.  I try to remind old readers (no ageism intended!) and acquaint new ones with what's gone before fairly subtly - snatches of conversation and actions carried out as a consequence rather than pages of explanation.  I'm sure that sometimes I get it wrong both ways, too much and too little, but it's not for lack of trying.

The formula that seems to work for me is to have a new story that is self-contained within each book, while also referencing the wider framework of the series as it develops.  So the series as a whole may be telling the story of a group of people's relationships with one another, how they met, how their lives intertwine, their triumphs and disasters and how they finally resolve them, while each individual book is telling - since I am essentially a crime writer - the story of a crime.  I hope you could pick up any book in a series, and understand and enjoy it.  But I'd also like to think you'd then go back and start the series from the beginning, to find out what you'd missed.
Title: Re: Sequels
Post by: Max_with_word_processor on December 31, 2013, 08:42:06 PM
Thanks all. Sounds like good advice.
Title: Re: Sequels
Post by: JewelAS53 on January 06, 2014, 01:31:21 AM
From a reader's perspective, I would like to add, if too much of the previous story is incorporated into the new story, I get bored. Does the author think I've forgotten that much? As much as I've enjoyed the Jean Auel books, she did get this wrong, and I flipped many pages.