It’s been said that the best way to ensure success as a writer is to write a series. I’m no stranger to that idea, especially since I’ve written a sequel to one of my novels and a sequel to my steampunk story “Dreams of Freedom.”
By the same token, I have planned stories that are “one and done” as the saying goes. A few of those are open to other stories in the same world, but I don’t think they’d count as sequels.
As much as we like sequels, is there a point where we don’t want the story to go?
Of course, a lot of what goes into a sequel is determined by the creator, so we’ll stick with that. When I think about sequels in my writing, I know there are a number of ways to go.
- Repeated character(s). This is where one or more characters team up to take on new, and possibly similar, challenges from one book to the next. Think Jack Reacher.
- Repeated challenges. This is where one or more threats keep popping up, over and over again. This is what James Bond has to deal with, especially when you think about guys like Blofeld.
- Arcs. Similar to repeated challenges, except the threats all come in short order. The most recent Dresden Files books have built an arc that is quite distinct from the overall story.
- One story, multiple books. It can’t be said any clearer. There’s a story that starts in book one and doesn’t end on the last page of the last book. Lots of fantasy books do this, none more than The Song of Ice and Fire.
Personally, I would prefer to use repeated challenges, even though most have gotten away from that part of the scale. It’s a rarity to see series treat any book at a jumping on point, so much that many people say, “you have to start at the beginning,” even if you don’t have to.
But that is another story.