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Please, Sir (or ma’am), may I have some more?


Valkyrie

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Short stories can be many things – a complete story, a character sketch, or an experiment in form. They are, by definition, short, which may leave some readers readying the torches and pitchforks.  @wildone asked a question in our last guest blog about what to do when readers are clamoring for more, and you want to continue the story, but not necessarily at that moment. It’s a great question and one I deal with on a regular basis since I primarily write short stories.  I’ve gotten quite adept at dodging pitchforks and torches!

angry crowd GIF by South Park

These are some things I have found useful when I want to continue a story, but don’t have the time.  The most helpful thing for me is to write a copious amount of notes about the characters, world, plot elements and twists, and anything else that comes to mind.  Sometimes it may be a snippet of dialogue, the name of a character, or even the title.  Writing these things down while the original story is fresh in your mind will help refresh your memory when it comes time to write the continuation.  Keep the notebook handy to jot down ideas as they come to you. 

Try writing some prompt responses set in your story’s world or featuring a character or two. Prompts are designed to be spontaneous and are great for exploring ideas, even if they’re not used in your follow-up story.  You never know where prompts will take you!

Personally, I find that sometimes I need to let stories ferment and rattle around in my brain before I can start writing them.  So, taking a bit of a pause isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although your readers may disagree. When you are ready to write, I suggest re-reading the original story, which helps get you back into the setting and characters’ minds.  Then look at all those notes you jotted down and start writing! 

Leave a comment with any other tips you can think of, and let's see some sequels this fall!  Just remember that anthology stories must be stand-alone and not require any prior reading,  but that's a topic for another blog ;) 

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24 minutes ago, Krista said:

Stories have first, Good characters. Second, good conflict/tension, plot, and/or reason for the characters to exist in the world that they do. If all of that is covered in the original, then you're asking a whole hell of a lot for a writer to continue in that world with those characters.

Do readers really ask 'a whole hell of a lot' more from a writer creating a sequel to an original idea? I'm thinking that if all the parameters are met then isn't it possible that a continuation of the original can be expanded upon. The fact that you don't like sequels is a personal point of view - as you noted - but it certainly is no reason for an author not to write a sequel. I think it important not to let our subjective opinions, especially from well-regarded authors, to be perceived as advice or instruction when opinion prevails.

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47 minutes ago, Krista said:

A story needs conflict and it needs resolution. If the story has naturally moved along and the characters have their end, sometimes it is good to let them keep it.

Like you said, you love your characters a bit and some of them I'd rather leave in peace than hurt them or have them die of old age or something. Leave them in peace, as you say.

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Krista

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1 hour ago, Ron said:

Do readers really ask 'a whole hell of a lot' more from a writer creating a sequel to an original idea? I'm thinking that if all the parameters are met then isn't it possible that a continuation of the original can be expanded upon. The fact that you don't like sequels is a personal point of view - as you noted - but it certainly is no reason for an author not to write a sequel. I think it important not to let our subjective opinions, especially from well-regarded authors, to be perceived as advice or instruction when opinion prevails.

Why continue to write a story that has fulfilled on its purpose? If 'everything' the writer has set out to achieve with these characters and plot. You're merely writing to continue the story. Fundamentally, you may weaken your original idea if you prolong past the conclusion/resolution.

And yes, it is 'asking a hell of a lot' continuing a story past its natural end for the sake of continuing. If there isn't much there, it is far easier to move on than it is to stay and make something out of little. You cannot make a meal out of table scraps, it's not feasible and it will never satiate. So yeah, if the story naturally concluded, it is 'a lot.' 

I said I didn't like sequels, because most of the time the authors are continuing in a world after the resolution, and they never create anything new. It is always fundamentally sound for a story to have 'something' whether it be conflict, tension, unresolved issues, and character development that is necessary for it to continue. If those parameters are no longer an issue, then the story should have concluded.

Another major flaw with sequels is that the author forces conflict, but is shallow and weakly supported. Something created out of thin air cannot build a sequel. If the original didn't support it, and it is created, what you have created is a possible plot that makes little sense and has little to support it based on what has already been created. 

I never said people shouldn't write sequels either and that there isn't a place for them. It isn't 'opinion' for me to say that there has to be something that supports a story for it to be written. If you have no conflict, if you have no unresolved issues that needs a resolution, if you have no tension, and your characters are fully developed through their arc, then you need, or should really, stop and ask yourself why you're continuing with them. If you can answer those questions within the parameters and idea of the original story, and have found issues that are lacking with it, that you can build an entire sequel on, then go for it. If you cannot, maybe you need to edit the original and resolve some of those, you may do your readers a favor than taxing them with an entire sequel. 

If you can't, all you're doing is 'more' of the same and what mostly ends up happening is that you punish the original with a lot of empty words. It's wasteful and time consuming, where you could have spent them on something new for readers to read instead. 

Edited to add: If you're only doing it because 'readers' want you to, then you're likely doing it for the wrong reasons. You have Author as your member status, so you know the time constraints and mental ingenuity it takes to craft a story and what is asked of you in doing so. It is a different weight for different people, obviously. But yeah, it is asking a lot, any creative project of any measure is. 

Edited by Krista
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1 hour ago, Krista said:

Why continue to write a story that has fulfilled on its purpose? If 'everything' the writer has set out to achieve with these characters and plot. You're merely writing to continue the story. Fundamentally, you may weaken your original idea if you prolong past the conclusion/resolution.

And yes, it is 'asking a hell of a lot' continuing a story past its natural end for the sake of continuing. If there isn't much there, it is far easier to move on than it is to stay and make something out of little. You cannot make a meal out of table scraps, it's not feasible and it will never satiate. So yeah, if the story naturally concluded, it is 'a lot.'

When you write a story, you create a little world for your characters' drama to play out.

If the elements (setting, characters) are solid, it's possible to continue and ask yourself what comes next? Unlike Hollywood which often rushes a sequel to cash in, ask yourself: are there possibilities to explore? Is there more to reveal about your characters? What makes them tick?

In Hypothetical Kid, we learn a lot more about LJ and the boy who had been bullying him, Rebel. That piece made you understand the two characters much better and how and why they acted as they did.

Initiation Weekend tells you much, much more about a character who only appears briefly, David. Can you imagine arranging for your new boyfriend to be paired up with your old one? David did and Tommy benefitted from it.

The important part of making rational sequels is to make them consistent, make any changes in the characters reasonable, and give it purpose.

You want your sequel to be more like Terminator 2 which is consistent than Aliens 3 which throws out the elements that made its predecessor successful.

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7 hours ago, JamesSavik said:

You want your sequel to be more like Terminator 2 which is consistent

Exactly, some stories aren't yet done even when the first one achieves its purpose. Maybe Science Fiction and Fantasy stories are more conducive to good sequels than other fictional works.

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Sequels can serve a purpose if they're planned out from the beginning. Take Harry Potter for example... each book covered a specific year of Harry's schooling, yet each was a completely different story in addition to building the world she created. 

Sequels that exist just because the franchise wanted it go off the rails... take Star Wars for an example. They should've stopped after Return of the Jedi but once the almighty Mouse got involved, greed took over. 

I enjoy having characters cross over and make an appearance in another story, but they're not the feature. Its like running into an old classmate... you smile and say hi, maybe exchange some pleasantries and then move on. 

The only series I did, I didn't want it to be three stories from the same character's perspective. Each story featured a different main character pair, but the plot itself built up within each one.  

It doesn't make sense to continue a particular story if you've covered everything you wanted to in the first one. 

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Writing a sequel is not as easy as many readers think it is. I have only written one sequel, admittedly that one was easy as it was a natural progression of the overall story that started with a single-chapter short story. I would like to write a further sequel but finding a natural progression and valid storyline to continue with has eluded me so it is unlikely to happen. I have written other stories that are considered 'spin-offs' which I'm happy with, they explore the lives and storylines of characters from the other two stories giving them some background. I feel they complement each other and go well together leaving an opening to expand and more to the base topic that forms the theme of the stories. I think for any author it is for them to decide and there are good arguments for and against sequels. I've described the way I have treated the idea of sequels and 'add-on' stories which works for me. Others may benefit from doing something similar, I know some have as that approach is not unique to me, but others may not benefit from it at all. I believe that it is a decision for authors to make based on what they feel is best for their story, authors should never feel pressured by readers as I feel that will detract from their work.

It has been interesting to read what others think and feel, and look forward to reading more opinions from other authors.

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