How to Find Book Sequel Ideas Worth Writing

Posted on Oct 15, 2023

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Written by P.J McNulty

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Embarking on a sequel is a thrilling yet daunting task for fiction writers.

It’s not just about broadening your book’s universe, but also about enhancing your characters’ arcs and continuing a story your readers adore.

Sequels come with benefits like growing your audience and potential financial upsides, but finding that perfect follow-up, one that’s faithful to the original yet innovative, is where many authors struggle.

It’s vital to tackle your sequel strategically.

The goal isn’t to mirror the first book but to delve deeper into your story and its characters, exploring new areas while preserving the core elements that initially won your readers over.

This article will outline practical, proven methods on how to find book sequel ideas that will delight your readers and turn them into fans.

This guide on how to find book sequel ideas covers:

  1. How backstories and past events can be used for a sequel to your story 
  2. How to use ‘what if’ scenarios to find a book sequel idea 
  3. How new characters and dynamics can fuel a sequel 
  4. How to expand a book’s setting and universe as the basis of a sequel 
  5. How to use new conflicts and challenges as the concept for a book sequel
  6. How to use a book’s theme to craft a sequel
  7. How to use reader feedback to find a sequel idea
  8. Successful book sequel examples to inspire you
  9. Book sequel ideas FAQs

Let’s start by taking a look at how backstories can serve as the basis for a book sequel idea.

1 – How backstories and past events can be used for a sequel to your story 

The concept of delving further into your story’s past is an invaluable technique in sequel creation, allowing you to explore the untold histories or unresolved events of their characters.

Every character is a sum of their experiences, and often, the first book only scratches the surface of their pasts.

Perhaps there’s a side character whose background was hinted at but never fully explored, or a main character with a mysterious history that wasn’t central to the original plot.

These narrative threads are goldmines for sequel stories, as they allow for deeper character development and the unveiling of secrets that can alter readers’ perceptions or the story’s direction.

How to use your story’s past as a sequel idea

This strategy isn’t limited to characters — it can extend to the world’s history itself.

Are there legends, myths, historical events, or old conflicts that still haunt the present?

Past events can have lingering effects on the current world, and a sequel can tackle these unresolved issues, leading to a richer, more immersive setting.

This historical depth can drive the plot forward, with characters grappling with the consequences of their world’s history, their ancestors’ decisions, or even their past lives.

However, caution is key.

Diving into the past necessitates a delicate balance, ensuring the new revelations are consistent with the established story.

It’s vital to seed hints and clues in the original narrative, which the sequel can then explore in more depth.

This approach maintains continuity, makes the sequel feel like a natural extension of the first book, and satisfies readers with a well-orchestrated unveiling of deeper truths.

2 – How to use ‘what if’ scenarios to find a book sequel idea 

Exploring “the unexplored path” hinges on the powerful question of “what if?”

This approach involves reimagining pivotal moments from the original book or envisioning new events that could logically occur within the established world.

Sequels thrive on change and the unexpected, and “what if” scenarios are perfect for introducing new conflicts, relationships, or stakes.

Just make sure that these new directions feel authentic, otherwise your readers will lose interest.

Example ‘What If’ scenarios for book sequels

1. What if the antagonist from the first book had a change of heart and sought redemption?

2. What if a minor character was revealed to be the heir to a powerful entity or secret?

3. What if the protagonist’s decision at the climax of the first book started a chain reaction they never anticipated?

4. What if a magical or technological advancement radically shifted the societal structure?

5. What if a prophecy believed to be fulfilled was actually misinterpreted?

6. What if a major character thought to be dead returned?

7. What if a natural disaster forced warring factions to unite and face a greater threat?

3 – How new characters and dynamics can fuel a sequel 

Introducing new character dynamics is a tried-and-true method of invigorating a sequel.

Characters drive the story, and shifting relationships, whether through conflict, romance, betrayal, or loss, can propel the narrative into uncharted territory.

Consider the complexity of human relationships: they’re ever-evolving, shaped by countless factors like personal growth, external pressures, and pivotal events.

Your characters should mirror this dynamic nature. Perhaps allies become rivals, lovers become enemies, or the protagonist must form an uneasy alliance with their antagonist.

Yet, effective character dynamics go beyond simply changing relationships.

A sequel provides the opportunity to introduce new characters—individuals who bring out different aspects of your existing characters or alter the group dynamic.

One of your major responsibilities as an author is to make sure new characters serve the story’s progression and feel integral rather than tacked on afterthoughts.

Each new character should have a purpose, whether it’s to challenge, support, or contrast with the original characters, ensuring that their introduction feels natural and necessary to the story’s evolution.

4 – How to expand a book’s setting and universe as the basis of a sequel 

Going beyond your initial story setting can broaden the narrative scope in a sequel, providing fresh perspectives and challenges for your characters.

By moving the story to new locations or even different time periods, you create an opportunity for characters to confront unfamiliar cultures, societal norms, technologies, or historical events.

Make no mistake, it’s crucial that this shift feels organic to the story’s progression and not just a change for the sake of novelty.

The new setting should fundamentally affect the plot and character arcs, providing a backdrop that actively shapes the story’s events.

Examples of new eras or locations driving a book sequel

1. Transporting characters to a previously unexplored continent with its own politics and magic system.

2. Moving forward in time to show the original characters’ children grappling with their parents’ legacies.

3. Shifting the setting from a bustling city to a secluded wilderness, emphasizing survival elements and introducing new conflicts.

4. Placing characters in a war-torn region, heightening tensions and stakes while exploring themes of loyalty and sacrifice.

5. Propelling the story into the future, exploring the ramifications of a technological or magical breakthrough introduced in the first book.

5 – How to use new conflicts and challenges as the concept for a book sequel

Presenting evolving challenges in a sequel ensures the story maintains momentum and doesn’t retread old ground.

The stakes must escalate, the conflicts should become more complex, and characters need to face hurdles that test them in new ways.

This doesn’t always mean going bigger—it’s about going deeper.

Maybe your protagonist succeeded in their quest in the first book, but what are the broader implications of that success? How has it changed the world, and what new responsibilities, threats, or challenges have emerged as a result?

Crucially, these evolving challenges should be deeply personal, forcing characters to confront their fears, question their beliefs, or push their limits.

External conflicts are most compelling when they connect to a character’s internal struggles, creating a cohesive narrative that engages readers on multiple levels.

These challenges can also introduce moral dilemmas that weren’t black-and-white in the original story, prompting characters—and readers—to grapple with questions that don’t have easy answers.

This complexity makes for a richer, more nuanced narrative, ensuring the sequel stands on its own.

6 – How to use a book’s theme to craft a sequel

Themes serve as the heart of a story, and reimagining these themes can provide a rich foundation for a sequel.

Whether you’re continuing to explore the original themes in new contexts or introducing fresh themes that complement the first book, this thematic focus ensures your sequel feels connected to the initial instalment while offering new food for thought.

Examples of using theme as the basis for book sequel ideas

1. Exploring the consequences of power and how it corrupts in a setting where the protagonist has gained significant authority.

2. Delving into the theme of forgiveness by introducing characters or societies who wronged each other in the past.

3. Examining the idea of identity in a scenario where characters must disguise themselves or are stripped of their titles/status.

4. Challenging the concept of destiny vs. free will when a prophecy or foretold event comes into play.

5. Deepening the exploration of sacrifice by presenting a situation where the personal cost is higher than before.

6. Introducing the theme of family, with characters discovering unknown relatives or having to navigate complex familial dynamics.

7. Analyzing the notion of truth and deception in a plot filled with intrigue, where allies and enemies are not clear-cut.

7 – How to use reader feedback to find a sequel idea

Engaging with your readership is more than a perk of being an author; it’s a resource that can provide insightful direction as you approach a sequel.

Readers are the first audience of your story, and their interpretations, questions, and desires for the characters or the world you’ve created can be illuminating.

They often notice elements or potential that you, as the writer, might not have seen.

While reader feedback can be invaluable, it’s crucial to stay true to your vision as an author.

Not all feedback will align with the direction you intend for your story, and that’s okay.

The key is to sift through the feedback for insights that can naturally fit into the world you’ve created without compromising the story’s integrity.

Remember, a sequel should be a continuation of your passion and creativity, guided subtly by reader input.

Successful book sequel examples to inspire you

Analyzing successful sequels can give invaluable insights into how renowned authors have approached the challenge of finding a worthwhile idea.

Here are five books that not only embraced the concept of a sequel but did so with distinctive, engaging ideas.

1. “The Hunger Games” -> “Catching Fire”

“Catching Fire” exemplifies a seamless transition into a sequel.

Suzanne Collins raised the stakes by introducing the Quarter Quell, a special edition of the Hunger Games, bringing previous victors back into the arena.

This twist not only reignited the perilous excitement of the Games but also expanded the political landscape, deepening the rebellion and the protagonist’s role in it.

2. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” -> “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”

J.K. Rowling’s second book in the Harry Potter series, “The Chamber of Secrets,” explores the rich history of Hogwarts through the mystery of the eponymous chamber.

By delving into the school’s past and the dark legacy of one of its founders, the sequel introduces new dangers, deepens the lore of the wizarding world, and tests the bonds of friendship.

3. “Dune” -> “Dune Messiah”

“Dune Messiah” continues Frank Herbert’s epic saga by transitioning Paul Atreides from a hero’s journey to a complex examination of leadership and consequence.

The sequel deals with the weight of prophecy, the intricacies of political maneuverings, and the personal cost of Paul’s ascent to power, providing a thoughtful, introspective contrast to the first book’s grand scale.

4. “To Kill a Mockingbird” -> “Go Set a Watchman”

Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” revisits the world of Scout Finch, but this time, she’s an adult facing personal and political crises.

The sequel explores themes of racism, politics, and family through the lens of a grown-up Scout, challenging the idealized perceptions she held in her youth and providing a provocative commentary on societal change.

5. “The Shining” -> “Doctor Sleep”

“Doctor Sleep” follows an adult Danny Torrance, survivor of the Overlook Hotel, as he battles his demons and encounters new supernatural threats.

Stephen King expands on the themes of trauma, redemption, and legacy, introducing new elements like the True Knot and further developing the concept of “the shining.”

Book sequel ideas FAQs

Here are answers to all your burning questions about book sequels.

1. How important is consistency when writing a sequel?

Consistency is crucial in a sequel as it maintains the story’s credibility and honors the readers’ connection to the original book. However, it should not limit the natural evolution of characters and the world.

2. Should sequels always contain the same main characters?

While retaining core characters can provide continuity, it’s not mandatory. Sequels can shift focus to secondary characters or introduce new ones as long as the story remains cohesive and connected to the original.

3. How can I maintain reader interest in a sequel?

To keep readers engaged, a sequel should deepen character development, introduce new conflicts or settings, and continue to explore or expand on the themes that resonated with the audience in the original.

4. What are the risks of writing a sequel?

Risks include disappointing readers if the sequel doesn’t meet their expectations, creating inconsistencies with the original, or presenting a story that feels unnecessary or forced.

5. How can feedback influence the direction of a sequel?

Reader feedback can highlight what resonated in the first book and help identify promising directions for the sequel, but it should be balanced with your creative vision to ensure authenticity.

6. How do I know if my book needs a sequel?

Your book needs a sequel if there’s more of the story you’re passionate about telling, whether it’s unresolved plot points, characters’ untapped potential, or unexplored aspects of your book’s world.

7. What’s the first step in planning a sequel?

The first step is to revisit your original book, noting unresolved stories, potential forcharacter growth, and themes or settings that can be expanded upon or explored further.

Are you ready to write a sequel?

Writing a sequel demands a clear vision and a genuine understanding of what your story needs to continue its journey.

It’s about respecting the original while not being afraid to introduce innovative elements that propel your story forward.

Now, with these practical strategies in mind, take the next step: sit down, plan effectively, and start writing the next book in your story.

The world you’ve built is waiting to unfold further, and your readers can’t wait to explore it.

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