I have lots of inspirations that I can make into stories, but I face this one question a lot: Should it be a prequel or sequel? Here's the thing: I'm an amateur writer, but I do have lots of potential to make. I wonder if I should make a story a prequel to the story or a sequel, or a spinoff. If I make any of those I need to decide which character is returning and at which age, timeline and the time the story took place. If I know anything it is that I am bad at decision making.

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I think you have to plan both, with a very good idea of the finales of each. The problem is that you need a story strong enough to publish first, but sequels are even harder.

Because you need to be even more creative on a sequel. That is counter-intuitive, perhaps, but you can't fill the pages with things that the readers of the first book already learned; so you have to invent more.

You need new surprises. New twists. And your original characters need to retain all the sophistication of the first story. And if the ending of the sequel is not as strong as the first book/film, then readers will be disappointed.

For example if your hero saves the world in the first book, and just saves a kid in the second book, that may be a letdown.

The Harry Potter characters have to grow up, grade by grade.

Your alternative is to always play "small ball", invent a few compelling characters that solve "small" one-off issues. So the characters are relatively evergreen, perhaps changing a little, but not much. The best example of all time, to me, is Sherlock Holmes, solving one murder at a time. There are so many takeoffs on Sherlockian detectives, you see a new series just about every year or two, and they are all pretty good. Columbo, Monk, House, actual Sherlock series like the BBC Sherlock and USA Elementary.

The characters seldom "grow" that much, and then sure, one book he catches a serial killer, the next book he stops a child porn ring, the next book he catches a clever bank robber, and it's all good. Reader plot expectations are fairly low; they want some twists and failures, but one villain per book is enough.

Another example is the old series "Kung Fu", Kwai Cheng doesn't change much, he wanders around the Old West and uses martial arts to take down one "small" villain or group at a time. Or any of the Star Trek series; for the most part the crew doesn't grow or change much, they just wander the stars, encounter and deal with one bad situation at a time.

But it sounds like you don't have a single hero. If you don't have an evergreen MC (Main Character or Main Crew) that can stand up to a whole bunch of "small" problems, then your sequel(s) must escalate from episode (book or film) to episode.

So analyze your story ideas, rank them by the magnitude of the challenge facing the MC, and order them accordingly. And hope your first book is a big enough challenge to sell well and let you write the next book.

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