I was perusing forum posts in a writing group on Facebook today when the question came up: should a writer consider writing a sequel to one of his stories? My response was that series books sell, and if your characters have more stories to tell about them, why not tell them?
I’ve written a bunch of stories over the years. Some, like ODD MAN OUT, started out as short stories and then morphed into a novella. Some, like DEAD OR ALIVE, morphed into a longer short story and spawned two more short stories. But most were not conceived as series stories. They all started off life as one-offs.
But recently some of those characters called out to me. In some cases, it was simply a loose end, left purposely at the end of the story (as is often done in horror stories; nothing can have a completely happy ending), which called out for resolution. Some were just interesting characters (to me, at least) and their worlds allowed for more stories. Some just seemed like they needed another chapter, something that wasn’t part of the original series. And one was a minor character in a novel who then became a character in a second novel.
First, let me talk about Rick Striker. If you’ve looked at THE STRIKER FILES (only $0.99 on Amazon!) you know that Rick is a private detective who is working on the case of a missing girl. (Spoilers for those stories follow.) The end of the trio of Striker Files stories leaves Rick in a different state of being, so to speak, and living in a new community. But I liked Rick and I liked his supporting characters, and I liked their world, so I imagined what would happen due to Rick’s actions in those three stories. And that became a novel. I haven’t titled it yet, but it’s complete for all intents and purposes.
So then I wrote another. I set the second (or third, if you count the three short stories as one) in Paris. For this one I had to do a little bit of research. My search led me to Biblical stories and creation mythology. So of course, I tried to work that stuff into the story, and came out with something that was fun and satisfying.
But lo and behold, Rick’s story wasn’t finished. I began a third (fourth?) story and am about 7000 words into it. I think this is the final story of the “series” of stories that didn’t start out to be a series at all.
Next, there is ODD MAN OUT. It may be the story I am most proud of. And one day I started thinking about those characters, Paul and Amy, Roger and Laura Walden, and the others. In the novella, Paul and Amy are engaged. So as their wedding date approaches, it would seem natural that things might go awry, considering how things are left in the first one.
So I started writing what happens next with these characters. And a story started to build out of it; I am about 6000 words into it, and eventually I’ll get back to it.
A third thing arose out of my first and only novel, RECIPROCAL EVIL. As with most of my stories, a happily-ever-after ending can’t just be left that way. But I really had no plans to ever continue that story.
And really, I’m NOT continuing that story. I had another story I was working on, and it wasn’t going anywhere. But suddenly I realized that it was set on the same college campus that RECIPROCAL EVIL occurred on. (How could it not? I was basing both on my own college.) And I always wanted to write more with Detective Thomas Chavez, the cop who investigates events in RE. Chavez becomes the same sort of supporting character in this new untitled story, and it even ties into the ending of RE without much of a rewrite. How cool is that?
Finally, I wrote and finished a short novel that I call FULL MOON, but that’s just a working title (I think). Bad things happen in this story of about 52K words. I finished it up with some of my characters getting away and crossing the country in search of safe haven, but of course I couldn’t make all end well for them. So they’re back in the FULL MOON town and other bad things are happening. Different bad things, but definitely bad things that were foreshadowed in the original story. I’m about 24000 words into this one. I don’t believe it will end up crossing that 50K threshold, but who knows? The first FULL MOON was about 10K shy when I first finished it, and then another 10K went into a few added characters and scenes. This could grow like that as well.
So what’s the plan with all these “sequels?” I’m thinking of packaging my novellas into a single volume, sort of a Stephen King thing like FOUR PAST MIDNIGHT or DIFFERENT SEASONS, and releasing them in a paper version. I’m thinking of doing the same thing with ODD MAN OUT and ODD MAN OUT 2, neither of which is currently long enough to justify its own paper edition. Then the FULL MOON books might get the same treatment, depending on the length of the second one. Finally, the Striker novels will remain standing alone for the foreseeable future.
As an aside, my Addison Falls novel is still percolating, though currently it’s on the back burner. I haven’t released anything since 2018, so my hope is to finish a lot of stuff at the same time and start putting them out one after another. I tried to do this with RECIPROCAL EVIL, THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT, and ODD MAN OUT in 2018, but while I sold some ebooks, I didn’t get any kind of momentum from the succession of releases. We also have this anthology for the Horror Writers’ Net coming out in early 2020; I’m an editor and contributor for that volume. Can’t wait to see how that one ends up.
So back to the original question. Should we write sequels? I’d say it all depends on the story and the characters. Do these guys and gals deserve more stories to be told about them? Are they interesting enough to carry more stories? If so, then why not? There’s a certain richness about these things. The possibilities open before you as you write even more easily than they do for stand-alone type of stories. I started out writing short stories, and only a couple of those have called out to me wanting their own longer tales. But when they call me, I try to listen.