Sequel or Series . . . and does it matter?
Sequel: a continuation of a story - a movie, novel, or play that continues a story begun in a previous movie, novel, or play or something that happens after something else, especially as a consequence of it. [Encarta dictionary]
Series: a number of similar or related things coming one after another or as in broadcasting, a set of regularly broadcast programs, each of which is complete in itself or , as in publishing, a number of books, pamphlets, or periodicals brought out by one company or organization on the same or related topics or in the same format. [Encarta dictionary]
So here's my take on all this.
Many people look forward to the release of a follow up book to the story they’re reading. Have you ever been surprised when you finished a book to discover that the story would continue in another book? How did you feel? Surprised? Excited? Furious? Well, I, for one, don’t like that sort of surprise. I’ll read both, but I like to know what I’m in for when I start out. I’m the type of reader who will wait to read the first book until all the sequels are completed. I’m not good for “first” book ratings.
Trilogies in sequels, those stories you know when you start will all be released by the publisher within the year, are different. Usually, I’ll risk diving into the first book for one of my favorite authors, knowing I won’t have to wait long for satisfaction. (I always admit, I’m an the instant gratification type.) Trilogies are also sometimes written as series comprised of interrelated plots or characters or settings.
Once an author has a plan for a book, or if they’re “pantsers,” those writers who have little structured plans when they write a book (they just let the creativity flow), and they begin the writing process, certain plot lines split and certain characters take on a life of their own.
This is an ideal situation for a series. I’ve heard some authors discuss how their readers want a story about a particular character and the how and why the author chooses to make that decision. One, the character has to have a story strong enough to carry a whole book and two, the character must be three dimensional enough to carry the whole book. When the plot splits, that is also an ideal situation for a series. Some authors plan these series from the start, tying the setting or plot to new characters as they’re introduced as secondary characters in the current work. In each of these stories, the plot is completed: the murderer is brought to justice, the boy gets girl, the world is saved from destruction. You get the picture.
In sequels, the first book may conclude one plot leaving an over-arcing theme unresolved and the final resolution may take more than one or two books to complete. The subsequent books become sequels to the first book, each book a completed step to the final outcome. Ideal sequels end in a good place, leaving the reader somewhat satisfied, but aching for more.
I’m trying my hand at both types of books. I’m almost finished writing the next book in the Enchanted Mountain series - stories about a location in the Colorado mountains where paranormal beings of the Lore meet and gather their power for the first time. My first was a novella: THE LION, THE LEOPARD, AND THE WOLF. The next is a novel length, titled: THE MOON, THE MADNESS, AND THE MAGIC.
Now the challenge for me will be accomplishing the goal of creating a book in a sequel. My Gemini Prophecy stories each have a resolution, but they also have an over-arcing plot: a nemesis who isn’t caught and a conflict which isn’t resolved until many books later. The first book is complete, but the second is still in the "to be completed" stage.
I’m both a “pantser” and a “plotter” (more on that another time) so most of the sequels are outlined, but if I get into the story with too much detail before I start, it’s not as much fun to write. Hey, I like a surprise as much as you do.
Please leave a comment about what you think. Thanks and have a great week.