Sequels can be tricky. I just finished the fourth book in the Waverly series, and I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Some backstory is required.
Not everyone who reads a sequel will have read the original, so you must include some backstory. However, you don’t want to begin a novel with a long, drawn-out explanation of what happened in the previous book. What I like to do is weave relevant backstory into both the narrative and the dialogue. I have the narrator explain directly to the readers, but I also have the characters discuss previous events in conversation. That way, for example, my readers will know why a particular character moved to a new city or recently began a new job, and the information doesn’t come across as forced.
2. You can’t use the same jokes and/or descriptions.
One way to make your characters seem real is to have them act real. For example, one character might complain every time she sees a man wearing jean shorts. But if she does the same exact thing in a sequel, it will come across as tired, and you will lose your readers’ attention. Think of a different way to make her funny.
3. Your characters must grow.
If your readers are going to spend hundreds of pages with a character, they’re going to expect to see some growth. They deserveto see some growth. And that’s just in one book. If you include the same characters in a sequel or sequels, you’ve got to evolve them in some way. If not, you run the risk of disappointing – or boring – your fans.
Note: In this post I’m talking about sequels. If you plan to write several standalone murder mysteries featuring the same detective, that’s a different ballgame, which I hope to address in a future post.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.