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Most works of fiction are influenced by back stories. Can that also be true for envisioned sequels?

I was working on a screenplay in which a female suit rises to the top of the company and is nominated for figurehead Chairman on her charm and sociability. Her personality type is "cheerleader." She is not the CEO, her role is ambassador rather than decision maker.

That was until I tried to envision the sequel, which has her launching a "coup d'etat" and turning Andover Corporation (named after its founder) into a female-dominated "Amazon Corporation." Do I need to change the woman's character arc in the first story? Or is ambassador a good place to launch a stealth coup d'etat?

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  • IMO: Put the two together, and you have one good story. The first one by itself seems rather sexist (from your quick description).
    – dmm
    May 7 '15 at 17:18
  • @dmm: You may describe it as "sexist," but the story has a "happy ending" as these things go. Most women should be so fortunate.
    – Tom Au
    May 7 '15 at 23:58
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If I’m understanding you correctly, you have a female character – who is not an MC right now, but a strong secondary character. This character in current WIP is of the Ambassador personality type.

Typically this type is described as:

Ambassadors will be positive about any change and will be highly aligned, however they will not proactively try to change people’s points of view. Moving an Ambassador to a Champion will require an organization to work closely with them, perhaps giving them a part of the project to lead, which will require them to engage more proactively. ~ from the http://www.hrzone.com/

Off the top of my head I don’t see any problem with this at all – and there are plenty of historical examples of Ambassadors, who are happy in their position becoming Champions within short time frames, and not only doing well, but thriving.

Truman stepped up from Vice President to President on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt died. We were still at war with both Germany and Japan at that time. As VP, the role of Ambassador fit Truman perfectly. He was engaged, active, did his job, enjoyed his job and position, and had no designs on becoming president. He rarely discussed world affairs or domestic politics with Roosevelt; he was uninformed about major initiatives relating to the war and the top-secret Manhattan Project, which was about to test the world's first atomic bomb. In fact Stalin knew about the atomic bomb months before Truman did. Truman met with FDR only twice during the 88 days of his VP office.

"Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."

As a Senator, Truman was fair. He did his job, didn't back down from things he believe were important, such as government spending waste, but it was only after he became president that his background was glorified. At the time though, he was seen as a pure Ambassador type -- both as senator and VP.

Within a week of rise into the White House, he was suddenly an Alpha, and it was only then that people began to see that he had been an Alpha all along.

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark". ~ Harry Truman, writing about the atomic bomb in his diary on July 25, 1945

He demonstrated no sign of insecurity with his new office and massive change of responsibility. For example he asked the current cabinet to remain in place. They understood the situation better than he did, and what the country required was results, not high public impression of him being his own man. He did emphasize a central principle of his administration: he would be the one making decisions, and they were to support him.

He went to FDR's funeral. When the papers tried to make a big deal about this, he told them flatly "He's my friend."

  • V-E Day on May 8, 1945, his 61st birthday
  • Hiroshima was bombed on August 6
  • Nagasaki three days later
  • With Japan still slow to surrender, he ordered a massive conventional air raid on Tokyo for August 13
  • August 14th, Japan surrendered

Post war was a mess, and there was havoc every direction you looked. No matter what you thought of his decisions however, you could not say he wasn't a fighter.

So, that is one of 100s of historic examples we could look as a demonstration of this change being well within the scope of the "human experience."

What I would suggest, is that in this book, to give your character an arc which suggests a change – create an event which emotionally drives her into the Champion role. Perhaps something that the current CEO does, or authorizes, results in a catastrophe of some type, which she finds unacceptable (oil spill, gas leak making water flammable, research the Koch Brothers, they have plenty of examples) -- OR -- Perhaps because of an inaction one of her relatives is killed or maimed.

There will be the temptation to do too much with that suggestion -- to get into her head and show details of what is going on. But the way I would play it would be showing the "event" and only mention her in passing. Have her leave the room when the news arrives, taking her cell phone out as she rushes for the elevator -- and that is it.

I suggest this because right now, she is a secondary character. Keep her that way. Then, in the next book, show what happened in her world as a result of that event.

One final comment on this -- the event and her decision to take over, doesn't require her to be a Hero as well as a Champion. Nor do her actions need to be less dangerous or more "good" than the one she has named "atrocity." There are plenty of news stories every day about someone feeling that something is unjust or against God, and then responding to that event with ballistics, explosives, rape, slavery and guns.

Hope this helps.

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  • This is a great answer. The historical parallels in particular are a nice touch. May 8 '15 at 9:50
  • The woman is a major character for reasons outside the firm. Let's just say that she brings her "outside life" into the firm at the very end, and during the sequel. She is an "ambassador" only at work, and is very pushy outside. So the sequel would have her transferring her natural pushiness to the office.
    – Tom Au
    May 30 '15 at 2:10
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Most people work with the thought in mind that their piece of writing will go on to be well received, and more success will come based around that, so will leave doors open for sequels. However, nobody wants to read an incomplete book.

Therefore you will usually find that most things will wrap up quite well at the end, and most plot points will be handled nicely, and the audience can be happy and content at the end.

This, however, doesn't mean the writer can't leave 1 or 2 loose ends that could possibly go on to evolve into further pieces. These could generally develop naturally from the first piece, referencing whatever loose end didn't tie up previously.

This means that a first piece of writing can always leave clues that might appear in the next, but that wouldn't detract from the story if the second piece is never written.

For example, a mysterious character that your main character notices in a bar talking to her boss, but you then find out nothing else about him, would leave the reader thinking he's just a shady guy, and that her boss is possibly cavorting with shady types, thus developing the character.

This can then be developed in the second piece when she spots the same man in a train station, and decides to follow him to see what he's up to. This can then lead to her changing her opinion about the current CEO and wanting to overthrow him.

You wouldn't fully describe this character in the first piece, and notice many things about him, without him ever showing up in again until the sequel, which might not ever even happen.

This means that you don't have to compromise the character for the first piece in order for her to make sense in the second. When the sequel comes around, make the situation fit the character, rather the character into a situation that they wouldn't make sense in.

If absolutely necessary, you can have the character experience something that does actually change her personality, such as a near-death experience, or a close family member dying. This could cause her to change, whether the sequel starts off this way or it happens between when the first piece ends and the second one begins.

So my suggestion would be to have the full character arc within the first piece, but with the thought in mind that it can develop further. Perhaps drop clues in the first piece as to how it might tie into the second, but don't start setting up a full story that finishes abruptly.

Make the character that fits in within the first story, and then change the situation so that her reasoning would change within the second.

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  • Or in short: yes ;-) Great answer, and +1
    – user5645
    May 7 '15 at 16:23
  • Great answer. I especially like your point that the story has to come from the character and not the other way around.
    – Joe
    May 13 '15 at 10:12
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I would actually keep her character intact as a cheerleader. Then in the second, as you reveal more about her character and motivations for overthrowing the current CEO, you can show that her appearance in the original work was a carefully crafted facade, designed to get her to the top as quickly and effortlessly as possible. The exact reasoning, of course, depends on her final motivation.

As an example, if she is upset by the demeaning attitude the current CEO (and society) has towards women, her motivation would be to show him (and society) what women can really do - but initially she plays into the whole "cutesy ditsy" stereotype she is upset with. She goes this route, knowing that if she shows just how capable she really is she would never get up more than a few rungs of the ladder. Once at the top she begins subtly manipulating circumstances to topple the CEO, all without dropping the facade until the final "coup d'etat".

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