It seems to me, fiction books can be broken down into major classifications: ones read to see how it ends, and others read to experience the journey. Okay, there’s also the ones read for both reasons, so maybe three. ;)
But my point is, sometimes “how it ends” isn’t a worthy driving factor. This is particularly true for prequels. The reader already knows the conclusion: Did they live? Did they come back? Did they make up? All that has been answered if they read the first story.
Authors can run into this problem when writing the story about a side character also. Unless their story stretches on past the original book, it’s about like a prequel; the reader already knows they wound up from A to B.
So, here are five ways to get the most out of a prequel or side story that ends up somewhere near where the original story begins.
Remove or add superfluous references in the orignal story.
When writing the original story, it’s likely you dropped in some references which didn’t hold much weight to the current tale. If you haven’t yet published that book, you can remove anything which doesn’t create a plot hole. For example, say the character mentions in dialogue how they acquired a particular item. Perhaps that bit of information stands on its own. However, not providing those details right away and then including it in the prequel can add some intrigue to the new story.
On the flip side, consider adding an outrageous line or two in the first story which leaves the reader wondering how that occured. Then, make it happen in the prequel.
“Oh, that’s nearly as bad as the time I was held captive by a family of dragons. . .”
Write in a cameo or two.
Readers love familiar faces. If appropriate, see about a character from the first book making a cameo in the prequel. This also helps tie together the stories. That being said, consider employing a timeline to make sure they really could have stumbled into each other at the cafe.
Add a twist that doesn’t impact the outcome.
This one can be tricky, but so worth it. Perhaps the character left home, or was wanted for murder at one time, or whatever else comes to mind. It can be a great way to add some surprise and interest, as long as it doesn’t impact the outcome.
Start the character as a different person and let them grow.
This is almost a must, yet can be easily overlooked. After writing about a character for so long in one story, it can be tempting to pick up the same attitude when writing the prequel. Instead, consider who they were when their journey began and what led to them changing into the person they were in the original story. That character arc will likely add a new dimension to both stories.
Make sure the journey is worth reading.
It’s tempting to want to write more with our beloved characters, but books are about stories. That is, there must be a conflict and a climax and a resolution.
Given enough time and thought, just about anyone has a story to share. But if that character simply does not, then it might be best just to let them go.
She is represented by Rossano Trentin of TZLA. Someone told her she's a USA Today Bestselling author. She thought there would be cake.