Creating a Sequel

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1How do you know when your story needs a sequel? It isn’t based on page count as many a novice author believes, it’s based on the higher story arc of the characters. Each book in a series, such as the Harry Potter series, is built around two story arcs: the low arc—such as finding and saving the Sorcerer’s Stone (book one of the Harry Potter series), and the higher arc—overcoming Voldemort. In each book of the Harry Potter series, there is a story within the ‘overcoming Voldemort’ arc that carries us along. We meet different characters that bring us information or eventually join in the end game of defeating Voldemort. In each volume, we find clues and hints of what is to come, what has occurred, and where we still need to go and do; and in each volume, the main characters grow, evolve, and transform based on what they’ve encountered.

Each sequel in a series is a growing experience for the characters and for the audience. However, each sequel should also be a semi-standalone story that a reader can pick up and become immersed in. While each story builds on the previous one, there should always be enough story in each individual book to capture your readers and pull them in. And once you pull them in, they’ll want to read the other books in the series to see what they’ve been missing.

I’ve seen too many novice writers break their story into sequels just because the page count is too long, or because they feel they can make more money by breaking the story in the middle and forcing the reader to buy the second half. Unfortunately, all that does is annoy their readers. In your first book, build your world and introduce your characters, but also give your readers a complete story. In the first book, The Starstone, I introduce you to the primary characters (the recurring characters), their world (Danaria), and then lay out the dilemmas facing these characters—the book-level challenge (finding the Starstone) and the overarching challenge (saving Danaria). Then, I have my readers follow along as the characters struggle to resolve the initial premise of finding the Starstone. However, the resolution of that book, should only move your characters part of the way to resolving the larger issue spanning the series (such as destroying Voldemort in the Harry Potter series). Keeping that larger arc of a story line unresolved is what makes your readers want the next book, and the next, and so on.

By giving your readers a complete story within each book, you gain loyal fans. That’s the difference between a good sequel and a poorly done one. Give your readers a good story, but make them want more; don’t leave your readers frustrated and angry because you broke the book in the middle of the story just to create a second book. If you need 1000 pages to finish the book’s story, then use 1000 pages. However, if the story has a natural conclusion at page 300, then use that. A sequel isn’t a way to break a book’s story into smaller segments.

A sequel should be a natural progression of the larger story and of your characters. By the end of each book in your series, your characters should be changed. Each story should cause them to grow and evolve. For the better or for the worse, your characters need to be affected by the events in each book, so that by the time you reach the end of the series, they are ready to face the ultimate challenges that the series has been leading to. That’s what a good sequel and great series is all about.




Interview with the Characters from Danaria

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1A friend and I were speaking the other day about fictional characters and what it might be like to sit down with them and actually speak to them about their plans, desires, wants, and needs. I was so taken with the concept that I decided to use the library interview questions that I answered to find out more about the characters in my fantasy series. So, to find out what Joelnar, Darkwind, Neerah, Phessari, and Marek think, keep reading.

Q: What do you want most from life?

Joelnar: A quiet life of raising horses that I can share with a wife and family.
Darkwind: If not love, then at least acceptance. Everyone fears me and thinks that I’m this terrible, awful person, but they don’t know me…at least not the true me.
Neerah: I thought I wanted love and adventure, but now I’m not so sure about the adventure, anyway.
Phessari: I want to share my life with someone while using my healing talents to help people.
Marek: Honor. I want to regain, and then maintain my honor so that I and my partner can lead our people and keep our village strong.

Q: What do you notice first about people?

Joelnar: How open they are. If a person is trustworthy, they tend to be more open in the way they present themselves and speak to you, because they have nothing to hide.
Darkwind: I used to take everyone at face value. Now, however, I try to note their energy patterns to see how believable and trustworthy someone is. Despite my ‘age,’ I still have a lot to learn about people.
Neerah: I notice a person’s face and whether the person is smiling or frowning, or looks friendly or sour. If they’re sour, like old lady Enderas, then I would rather not have to spend time with them.
Phessari: Their aura. A person’s energy signature precedes them by at least four feet, so it’s the first thing I sense, and it gives me so much information about the person.
Marek: How they carry themselves. A proud and honorable person is comfortable with themselves, meets your gaze, and stands tall and strong.

Q: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

Joelnar: Dependability. I’m a very responsible person and I expect my friends to at least meet me half-way. If they tell me they’re going to do something, then I expect them to follow through.
I can’t say that I have ever really had any friends. But if I did, I should like them to be understanding and kind.
Neerah: Fun. I love friends who enjoy life.
Phessari: Respect. It’s not easy for some people to respect someone with different values or beliefs. So, I really appreciate having friends who respect me.
Marek: Loyalty. When I go into battle, I expect my friends to be there with me. My fight should be their fight, and their fight is my fight.

Q: What is your main fault?

Joelnar: Dependability. I’m a very responsible person and I expect my friends to at least meet me half-way. If they tell me they’re going to do something, then I expect them to follow through.
I’ve been told that I’m too controlling; but then, again, I’m rather reserved, so I get very uncomfortable in unstructured situations.
Neerah: Recklessness, I guess. Joelnar, Marmian, and my grandfather have all told me that I don’t think about the consequences of my actions; that I tend to just jump into things.
Phessari: My acceptance and my convictions in my faith. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is a believer.
Marek: Intolerance. I have been very intolerant of those who aren’t warriors or who do not follow warrior ways. I have little patience for spell-casters and the like.

Q: Do you have any regrets in your life, and if so, what?

Joelnar: Yes. I regret not going back to Darkwind’s when I first had the chance and rescuing my friend, Rafe, and my brother. But I’m determined to set them free, no matter what.
I regret my interactions with Neerah. Of all those I have hurt, her pain cuts me the deepest.
Neerah: I regret not taking my opportunity with Joelnar when I had the chance back in the Forest of Reflections.
Phessari: I wish I knew more about the interactions of couples. I have spent so much time learning my skills as a healer that I have had little experience with emotional entanglements.
Marek: I regret my quick dismissal of those who do not follow the warrior’s path. I am just now beginning to understand that it takes more than being a great warrior to be a great person.

Q: What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

Joelnar: I would like to have the touch with animals, especially horses, that my mother did. There wasn’t any animal anywhere that would shy away from her.
Courage. I wish I had been braver when I first entered this world of physicality. Perhaps then, Ionee (now Neerah) would not have been so upset with me.
Neerah: Actually, I wish I could return the talent I was gifted with. I wish I couldn’t hear the gems singing, or use their power.
Phessari: I have already been blessed with so much, I would not ask the gods for more.
Marek: I have already been gifted with the skill and power of a mighty warrior. As a leader, this is the best talent to have.

Q: How do you wish to die?

Joelnar: Quietly, with my family around me.
Free. If I die, I want to be free of d’Oessler’s control, and with Ionee’s forgiveness.
Neerah: I don’t wish to die at all. That’s morbid, ask me something else.
Phessari: I will accept whatever fate the gods may bless me with.
Marek: In battle, of course. That is how a warrior should die.

Q: What is your favorite motto?

Joelnar: With love and family, all things are possible.
All are one.
Neerah: Life is a playground; let’s have fun.
Phessari: Life is a circular path leading to enlightenment.
Marek: Elai-gri nahk tie. Onward to battle!