3

I have a story I'm writing which envisions some sequels. However, although the timeline and world are the same, such sequels are so different from each other that I feel I'm causing too many deep permanent changes in the stories.

As far as I know, and based on what happens in the market I study and what its audience says, a sequel is, generally, similar to the previous work, being kind of a "The New Adventures of X", keeping the world/universe, feeling and atmosphere, but putting the same characters (or most of them) in new events, and such audience like it that way, because that way they can have again the experience they had in the previous work but now with a new story with the characters they love and some new things, very usually keeping the status quo.

However, in my story, if there is a very special and rare race, it's sure that they will be extincted; if there is a bloodline that inherits a powerful ability, it's sure that such line will be broken; if there is a group of very likeable characters, it's sure that the protagonist will be unable to be with them again; if the protagonist goes to the future, it's sure he can't return; if there's a powerful artifact, it's sure that it will be destroyed; if the protagonist has special powers, it's sure he will lose them, etc.

As if it's not enough, there's also changes in the content and genre of each story: the first is a fantasy, one of the sequels is a sci-fi, another one is close to horror, etc.

So, the reader is likely to not expect the sequel to be so different from the previous and end up disappointed. And with that, I lose opportunities to create more sequels with these things that got removed.

Should I be more careful with the status quo of my stories?

  • Attack on Titan did this all the time, making the story 20% more "realistic" and dark. – Mephistopheles Nov 9 '17 at 9:23
2

It's a balance. When readers look forward to the next book in a series, they're looking for an experience that's both new, and similar to the previous installments. That's a tough line to toe -- and you're never going to keep all readers happy.

Some thoughts and observations:

Start By Writing A Book, Not A Series

It's easy to get swept away by the thought of a grand epic and the awesome gradual progression you'll have through the series. But never lose sight of the fact that your first book has to be awesome, or there might not be a second book.

It needs to work, and be gripping, and stand on its own right -- without the promise of "oh if you keep reading, then by Volume IV it starts getting really good." And if the book stands on its own, it doesn't matter where the rest of the series goes -- you've got at least one awesome book to sell!

What's more, you need to keep doing this. You want your second book to be awesome too, not just coast on the momentum of the first. And so on. If you are capable of keeping this up, you will have a series of worthwhile books. Maybe they'll appeal to different audiences. Maybe this will be a hard series to sell. But if you work to make each book good in its own right, there are plenty of readers who will appreciate that and be willing to follow you.

Make The Right Promises

If your series is going to be full of cataclysmic events and changes, that's fine. That probably means you need to take care that your subsequent book doesn't look like "Like the previous book, but a new storyline"; instead, you're aiming for "See what happens next after that last earth-shattering volume!"

If you're truly capable of making such huge changes to the world on a regular basis, and write stories that reflect those changes, that's awesome. It just means you need to be clear, in your writing -- set up the right expectations; make the right promises. For example, maybe don't start out with grizzled adventurers, veterans of a dozen quests and known as heroes -- that might make your setting feel like one where one adventure is pretty much like the other. If instead, you focus on, say, somebody who realizes there's a huge threat and nothing will be the same again, then you'll be promising the "right" kind of story, and drawing in readers who want to see a world reshaped.

Establish the Pattern Immediately

If your books are going to be all different from one another, make that clear from the very second book. Don't write, say, a fairly-consistent trilogy, and then try to shift -- readers will have gotten used to your world and style as being consistent.

Instead, make sure the second book demonstrates how you're going to be varying things from story to story. Yes, you'll lose some readers, who don't want to go from an epic fantasy into SF. But anybody who is willing to make that leap should know upfront what he's getting into (and, that might be exactly what those readers might really love!)

So, demonstrate how far you're willing to jump, as early as you can. Change the genre, the characters, the style. Change is the style. DO keep some clear links and common elements; have the second story be a clear offshoot of the first -- but make very certain it doesn't feel the same, because "the same" isn't what you want to do.


It's not easy. Formula and repetition are easier. But if variety is what you want, then 100%, go for it :D

2

There are different kinds of series.

Most common are the ones that follow a sequence of events and/or same group of characters. Other works are merely sharing the same universe and they are almost never called "sequels". Moreover, an author may create several independent series in the same universe, and there may be different sequels' installments getting published around the same time, each continuing the particular series' timeline.

You are referring to Status Quo Is God trope, please check out the opposite one - Nothing Is the Same Anymore. You can go either way, but "status quo" is good for short installments only, there are not so many novel-sized works that would adhere to "status quo".

2

There's two observations that I feel need to be made.

Firstly, novels can be part of a shared world, and even reference each other, without being sequels. A sequel is a continuation of a storyline, a what happens next. If it's another series, or stand-alone story, within the same world then that is fine, and has a long and storied tradition.

If it helps to explain, consider the Star Wars universe. The seven main films are fairly self explanatory sequel structures. They deal with the adventures of the Skywalkers and what happens next (and unfortunately what happened before). Rogue One ties into those stories, but isn't part of the prequels or sequels - it's a stand-alone that references, and the has an impact on, the main storyline, but isn't really a part of it. Likewise, Star Wars Rebels shares the universe and some of the characters, but doesn't really fit the prequel/sequel progression of the trilogies.

Likewise, Lord of the Rings can arguably be considered the sequel to The Hobbit, but Tolkien's other works (such as The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales) aren't a part of this main storyline. They certainly impact it (what with the forging of the Ring, the rise of Sauron etc), but they aren't part of the storyline. They explore the setting further.

Brian McClelland's Powder Mage trilogy, and the numerous novellas (such as The Girl from Hirsch Avenue) are also good examples, and this is a format that is becoming more and more prevalent with the advent of e-books - using Novellas to further explore the setting and characters outside of the main storyline.

The second point I'd like to address is the seemingly stark definitions that seem to be held in regards to genre. My advice is to ignore that, for now. Leave the pigeon-holing to the publishers. Instead, write your stories as needed, and weave in the elements that that particular story demands. A good story will often sit across several classifications, particularly in Fantasy.

Instead, work on what elements your story has. So your setting is Fantasy - that's great, that encompasses everything from Swords and Sorcery to Steam Punk to Epic Space Fantasy and everything in between. And if you're doing a number of different stories within that setting, go for it. One particular story takes place in a haunted city > introduce the element of Horror - fear of the unknown, palpable terror etc. Maybe it's a Murder Mystery on the trans-continental Zepplin? Or a high-tension thriller as the out of luck City Watchmen desperately tries to stop the serial killer plaguing the docks district? At the end of the day, it's the story that's important - the characters and setting are all just window-dressing, and it's how you incorporate these elements into it that count.

Jim Butcher does this wonderfully with the Dresden Files - Urban Fantasy/Mystery revolving around Harry Dresden, PI and Wizard for Hire who works to solve supernatural mysteries and crimes in modern day Chicago. It's a wonderful blend of Thriller/Mystery/Fantasy.

The Writing Excuses Podcast (with Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, Dan Wells and Mary Robinette Kowal) also has numerous episodes around incorporating different elements into your story, and is well worth the listen. I can't remember if it's season 11 or season 12, however.

0

I prefer the type of universe you describe wanting to do. I lean towards those sorts of series, because I can enjoy the worlds more fully. Such a structure allows you to broaden the scope of issues you explore.

Brandon Sanderson has done this sort of time - jumping with his Mistborn series. I believe he expects three time frames, each one having a trilogy. He has written six books so far (2 time frames.) His second trilogy imo is not as strong as the first trilogy, but that could be for a number of reasons (the writing struck me as more rushed.)

JK Rowling is beginning her new time frame with Newt Skermander. Seems to be working OK.

Sanderson and Rowling are successful (very much so) and so i believe you're fine. It may depend on the audience. A younger audience, say in their teens, might prefer a good long stretch with the same storyline (seven harry potter books, three mist born books) before moving into a new area of your world.

2 cents.

p.s. Historical fiction authors work in different settings and characters all the time. I think you're fine.

p.p.s. Changing genres is problematic, though, because a reader will feel that they were tricked somehow.

0

Series can jump timelines as much as you want as long as they stay within the world. The Shannara series rarely even kept the same characters from book to book but still held the same world and issues (like each generation/ new set of characters had to face a new evil that stemmed from a previous relic or something).

However, I would say that if you go from fantasy to horror, I may not be inclined to read if the genre changes. I personally hate horrors, and I wouldn't want to get half way through a series just to find out it went from a fantasy to a horror. I would feel annoyed that I invested myself in a world that kept changing up genres to the point I didn't want to finish how the series ended. Adding more or less suspense is one thing, but to switch it to a horror would really throw off readers.

Maybe this idea stems from the anime Sword Art Online where they kept the same overall theme/world and same characters, but had the video game genre change up each time. This was plausible because we knew that the video game that he was playing was changing. However, in your story, it would be hard to write this change.

Maybe the fantasy is futuristic fantasy where there is already spaceships present so that when you get to the scifi, you have some bleed over from the previous book to then set up them going into space or something. Then from there you can have some bleed over into the 3rd book where they meet a hostile alien race and turn it into some AVP/Starship troopers.

Bottom line is that the flow has to make sense. Having it change genres in a way that is seems abrupt would really throw off readers and you would lose readers fast.

I would stick to one genre. If you really want to write the other genres, create it in the same world but with different characters, but here again, you need to explain some how why a space exploring ship or like technology randomly shows up in the land of magic/elves.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.