It never fails. There’s a great story out there, everybody likes it, and then comes the sequel. We all feel obligated to read/see the sequel because we liked the first one, and more often than not, we’re disappointed.
And yet, we writers are just as prone as anyone else to venture into sequel territory. It’s inevitable when we’ve gotten to know our characters and world so well. We want to go back there and see how everyone is doing. But how do we avoid the yawn-inducing sequels that we despise?
I have a few things to consider before starting the sequel. These should help us make sure it’s a good one.
Were you planning on it from the start?
If your story is one of a planned series, you’re very much all set. Your sequel isn’t the product of wishing to go back to a world you left. Rather, it’s a premeditated act of sequelness. Pick up where you left off in the previous installment and get to it. Seriously. You have people waiting for this one.
Does it build on the original?
This is an easy check. Ask yourself this list of questions.
- Where did you leave your characters in the first installment? Are they still there?
- What events transpire because of what took place in the original?
- How have the characters changed because of the events in the original? Is this a good thing?
- What does your main character still need to learn? Does he still have a flaw or three to work on?
If you’re not answering these questions, you’re not writing the right sequel.
Does it explore something new?
When it comes to taking an established set of characters and a full, rich world, then running with it in a whole new direction, nobody does this better than Pixar. Think about how the sequels to Toy Story play out. In the original, we meet the toys and learn how the toy world works. We follow a story of what it’s like for a toy to be replaced with a cool new toy. In Toy Story 2, everybody’s back, it’s the same world, but we now find out what it’s like for a toy to be a collector’s item. New story, same setting. Then, in Toy Story 3, we get to see what it’s like for toys when their owners grow up.
Take away from this that your sequel should be exploring something new. Don’t simply return us to the world and rehash the same old thing. Raise questions! What nooks and crannies can you ferret out that we haven’t seen yet? Surprise us with details.
Keep those three questions in mind and you’ll be well on your way to writing a fantastic sequel.