7 Tips to Writing Prequels and Not Hurting the Originals

Age of Apocalypse

As I said, prequels are a risky endeavor because you can easily slip up and make a mess of both series.  Continuity becomes very fragile since you’re basically traveling back in time and we all know how often that turns sour.  Many authors might think of this as nothing more than writing any other series and assuming their own memories will guide them to safety.  Unfortunately, we are creatures of improvement and dabbling, which means we always have a chance of getting hooked on a bad idea because it’s cool for this specific story.  So, what are some tips to writing prequels?

  1. Make an outline or note system that focuses on areas that the two series can or may crossover.  Mark down where you go into descriptions for cities and creatures in the original to make sure you don’t redesign them.  Note your systems like magic, currency, politics, and religion to keep them either the same or at an earlier stage.  As strange as it sounds, you can’t always trust your memory here, especially since you have two series at risk.
  2. Not every cameo has to be indulged.  Sure, I’d love to have Nyx or Luke Callindor meet with Clyde, but there’s a small problem.  They haven’t been born yet.  Even a hint at their future existence is difficult.  You can try to give a nod to future events, but it’s more difficult with characters.  If they don’t exist or haven’t done anything to garner even a speck of attention then you have to work extra hard to get them involved.  I guess some match ups have to stay in fan-fiction.
  3. There are ways to make cities differ from series to series.  Things change over time, so you can make them smaller and still growing.  Still, you need to keep it the same to some extent to make sure people don’t think you made two cities with the same name.  For example, Gaia will be smaller in War of Nytefall, but it will still have the arena and griffin mountain.  Landmarks can really help here.
  4. Because I said so is not a way to get out of creating a paradox.  Either work a way to fix it or admit you made a mistake.  Preferably, you catch everything before publishing though, so this tip might be one that comes too late.
  5. If you know you’re going to write this series before finishing the first one then put in a few foundation points.  This will help establish a link and put you in the right mindset to keep them in the same world.  By already having created part of the new story in the old one, you forge a mental link that will carry over.  It can be as simple as mentioning old adventurers in passing or showing a creature that will play a prominent role in the next story.  It doesn’t have to be blatant, but it should be memorable for you.
  6. Never be afraid to go back to your original work and notes if you feel like you’ve made a mistake.  Our instincts can be pretty strong here, so it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to indulge them.  This goes for first drafts and editing stages.  In fact, you can simply make a note to check later if you’re scared of losing the flow.  Although, I would assume that the flow is broken by your own worry and doubt.
  7. Talk to those who read the original to learnwhat they think about a prequel.  You can get an idea of what people expect to see, but remember that you have the final decision here.  So, don’t go about adding characters that shouldn’t be there because everyone wanted to see them.  This will also give you an idea of what readers remember the most from the original, which will be in their heads when they read the new series.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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31 Responses to 7 Tips to Writing Prequels and Not Hurting the Originals

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! Continuity seems to be an issue people bring up a lot in the Star Wars series and those surrounding Marvel and DC characters. Also what’s canon or not. But I like seeing cameos from the younger versions of characters we know well. Star Wars Rebels has great cameos.

    Like

    • The canon question is a tough one these days. Especially when you have major chunks of past material removed from canon or two semi-related timelines. Things can get confusing even without prequels getting involved.

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    A great masterclass from Charles 👍😃

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  3. I’ve never tried something like this, but it all seems like good advice.

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  4. Reblogged this on DSM Publications and commented:
    Check out this great post from Charles Yallowitz’s Legends of Windemere blog with 7 tips to writing prequels and not hurting the originals

    Like

  5. The Owl Lady says:

    Love this post! Thanks for the info. @v@ ❤

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  6. Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing House and commented:
    Writing a Prequel…Here are some tips 🙂

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  7. What might be cool is to take places and items that are in ruins or mysterious, and reveal more about them. So your characters in the later chronology came to an abandoned keep? Now’s your chance to show the original inhabitants. And they encountered a mystical artifact. Was it actually forged for good?

    It think it’s an opportunity to add layers to what might be familiar settings.

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    • I’ve seen that in a few stories. Usually involving time travel. Technically, that’s the concept behind the new series Krypton too. Only thing to watch out for is removing any pieces that play an important role in the future adventure.

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  8. Reblogged this on Archer's Aim and commented:
    Interesting approaches to expanding a series into the past which can be rather difficult. See what Charles Yallowitz has to say about it…

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  9. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

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