Mar 25 2009
When a first-time novelist says that he’s writing the first book in a series, that’s usually code for “I’m not going to resolve anything.”
For example, the story builds up to a “climactic” battle that doesn’t actually vanquish the villain. The main sidegoal is to get the girl, but the hero doesn’t manage to accomplish that, either. After reading hundreds of pages, your audience will want some resolution. If your novel can best be summarized as “to be continued,” then what’s the point?
Here are some better ways to set up sequels.
- The hero achieves his initial goal, but the problem is more complicated than he had believed. For example, we are set up to believe that John is the main villain. Over the course of 300 pages, the hero struggles against him and narrowly defeats him. At the very end, though, we learn that he was only a lieutenant to the true mastermind. This gives us some resolution because the hero has accomplished what he set out to do.
- The hero achieves his goal in a standalone novel, but unanticipated complications arise in a later work. In the first novel, the hero defeats the villain and woos the heroine. The end of the first novel will feel satisfying because it appears to have resolved the underlying problems. The characters live happily ever after… well, not quite. Your next novel skips forward a few months and reveals that the hero is quite unhappily married and that the villain from last time left a nasty surprise. This sort of sequel is easiest to write if you give yourself some minor loose ends to pick up later.