Guest Post: World-Building and Sequels

I’m hosting guest authors through most of April and May, as I am swamped with Awesome Con DC and welcoming Baby Boy Brightley into the world. This guest post was written by A.J. Maguire, the author of SeditionSaboteur, and Witch-born.

World-Building and Sequels

It seems easy enough to start a series. You finish one book and then, oftentimes because you’ve fallen in love with particular characters or the world you’ve built, you realize there’s more. There’s more story to be told here, more adventures to be had, and you get excited to continue.

Readers are excited with you because, just like you, they also fell in love with either the world or the characters and their imaginations are running the gamut as well. They can see the potential here too. And therein lies one of the challenges for writing sequels. Because whatever you do in the sequel has to respect the rules of the first book or you risk your Reader’s anger.

So here are four tips to help on your journey from Book 1 to Book 2. (And this is coming from someone who has made pretty much every mistake you possibly can in writing a sequel, so allow me to save you some pain.)

 1) Story Bibles.

They work. They may sound boring but they don’t have to be. Whether you use on online program or a paper notebook (like me) it’s important to get these things recorded in an easy-to-reach place. You do not want to have to search through your first book for the name of that one guy who told you characters how to get from point A to point B without being killed.

That takes precious writing time away. And if you’re like most writers then time is something you don’t have a lot of.

So here’s the tip – read through your first book with your Story Bible right beside you and write down important character names, descriptions and landmarks. Do this before you get too far into your sequel, if not before you even start.

 2) Stay close to your characters.

Let me explain.

If you are using the same characters from your former book then you must remember that they are not the same characters they were when you began. Through that first story they changed. So how they view the world around them will also change. Readers will look for this. If you’ve done your first book right, then the Reader changes along with the character and they expect more.

If you’re using new characters, then the Reader expects those new characters to view the world in a completely different way. It can’t be the same voice. It has to be tainted with the vantage of the person you are telling the story through.

 3) No, really, stay close to your characters.

World-Building is closely associated with Character-Building. You can’t do one without the other. Characters are groomed in the worlds in which they live in. We understand Bilbo Baggins in his relationship to the Shire. He would not be Bilbo Baggins without it.

Conversely, we understand the U.S.S. Enterprise in light of Captain Kirk or Captain Picard, take your pick. Each Captain brought to the Enterprise a different viewpoint, a different vantage, and through them we were able to see the “setting” in which they lived.

So World-Building and Character-Building are intertwined. Writers need to remember this when they’re writing anything, not just a sequel. So stay close to your characters. They will inevitably bring the world to life.

4) Timelines

The passage of time changes everything. People grow old. There are droughts, floods, winter storms, and with each of these experiences the world, and the characters, are changed. If your sequel is starting 20 years after the ending of the first book, then these changes need to be seen.

It’s like your home town. Whether or not you’ve been away from it, it has changed. New buildings have been built. Old buildings have been renovated or torn down. There is a narrative written in the sidewalks, a long memory that stretches back further than any of us can remember.

The same should be said of your created worlds. It doesn’t matter if your characters don’t care about the history of their world. You need to because that history will eventually include the characters on your page.

So be sensitive to the passage of time in your world. Show what has changed. Show what hasn’t changed. And through that your Reader will be able to see what change is about to be wrought.

Guest Author Bio:

A.J. Maguire is a mountain-climbing, martial arts loving, published author with one child and one cat and a borderline unhealthy fixation with the written word.  Currently she has three books out for sale.  The first two books are Sedition and Saboteur, which are a part of a series and were published through Wings ePress.  The third book is Witch-born, published by Double Dragon Publishing.  Her short story “The Man Who Loved Medusa” was featured in the Love and Darker Passions Anthology in June 2012.

She has two releases scheduled for Summer 2014 with Double Dragon Publishing (Dead Magic and Deviation).


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