Sequels can be tricky. I just finished the fourth in a series of novels, and I'd like to share a few things I've learned along the way.
1. Some backstory is required.
Not everyone who reads a sequel will have read the original, so you must include some backstory. However, you don't want to begin a novel with a long, drawn-out explanation of what happened in the previous book. What I like to do is weave relevant backstory into both the narrative and the dialogue. I have the narrator explain directly to the readers, but I also have the characters discuss previous events in conversation. That way, for example, my readers will know why a particular character moved to a new city or recently began a new job, and the information doesn't come across as forced.
2. You can't use the same jokes and/or descriptions.
One way to make your characters seem real is to have them act real. For example, one character might complain every time she sees a man wearing jean shorts. But if she does the same exact thing in a sequel, it will come across as tired, and you will lose your readers' attention. Think of a different way to make her funny.
3. Your characters must grow.
If your readers are going to spend hundreds of pages with a character, they're going to expect to see some growth. They deserve to see some growth. And that's just in one book. If you include the same characters in a sequel or sequels, you've got to evolve them in some way. If not, you run the risk of disappointing - or boring - your fans.
Note: In this post I'm talking about sequels. If you plan to write several standalone murder mysteries featuring the same detective, that's a different ballgame, which I hope to address in a future post.
Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.