7 Potentially Useful Tips for Spin-Offs: I Make No Promises

Most of the Star Trek Captains

Even though we see so many, the spin-off is not something that should be entered into lightly.  There’s more than one story on the line and an author can break an entire world apart with a bad sequel.  So, here are some tips that might work to ease the anxiety and prevent possible disasters.

  1. For all that you hold dear, double check the stories you’re going to be working off of before doing anything.  Don’t assume that you know it because you wrote it because even creators can make a mistake.  (I.E. Mosquitoes)  The last thing you want is to undo part of the world-building that you already accomplished.  It breaks continuity and makes the spin-off feel more like a rush job than a planned story.
  2. Factor in the passage of time and change of locations between the original series and the spin-off.  If this is an adventure that is going alongside the other then slip in cameos and nods to prove that they’re connected.  This can help create a timeline as well.  If you’re having this take place after the original finished then remember that characters age and things change.  Giving the audience a sense of time and place can really help.
  3. As stated, you should look into cameos and nods to the other series.  Not so much that it comes off as patting yourself on the back, but enough that people can see the connections.  For example, have the main character talk about past events or learn about what one of the previous heroes is doing.  You can have them cross paths for a moment if their adventures run at the same time too.  Just remember to include the encounter to some extent in the other work.
  4. Read or watch other spin-offs to see what they did right and wrong.  It isn’t like you’re the first one to attempt this, so learn from those who came before you.  Do an Internet search to get a nice mix of hits and misses too.  Even if you can’t watch the whole thing, you can get an idea and look at a few fan reactions.  Keep in mind that the latter can come with a lot of bias.
  5. Be careful about spoilers.  Some are inevitable, but you can get around them with allusions.  These can even help make people curious about the other series.  Consider the spin-off to be part promotion for the original and you might see some ways to share events without oversharing.
  6. While you have to maintain similarities with the original series, you can still add new things to the world.  There has to be a sense of uniqueness and individuality.  Consider the spin-off to be a younger sibling of the original.  The two will have some things in common, but not be clones of each other.
  7. Only do a spin-off if a story is there.  Don’t force something because other people want it or you simply don’t want to let a character go.  If there isn’t a big story then do a short one and you might find yourself doing a collection of minor spin-offs instead of a larger work.  The key to a spin-off is to tell a new story while retaining interest from the original, but that doesn’t denote a specific length and style.

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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18 Responses to 7 Potentially Useful Tips for Spin-Offs: I Make No Promises

  1. Jean Lamb says:

    I might note that prequels starring the main characters lose a lot of potential tension, because the reader knows they’re going to survive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Marie says:

    I enjoyed this post. (And how apt that you mentioned Star Trek.) I can’t help thinking of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, which has a prequel and another book that seems to be a spinoff from the original trilogy. Spinoffs can work is the world is vivid and vast enough and the proposed stories are good, as you mentioned.

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  3. Those are some pretty good practical rules.

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  4. Great post! Very good tips.

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  5. This should mandatory reading for the Hollywood set any and every time they think spinoff, sequel or God help us all…remake! Good commentary! 😉

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  6. You’re right — definitely need to re-read your source material before beginning a new series or even a further volume in the same series. I always look for ways to add characters who aren’t too much like the original ones. After all, why make new characters when you could keep using the existing ones?

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    • Adding characters has always been a challenge, so I do a lot of recurring. There’s a series I’m hoping to do in the future that has a partially new cast with every adventure. Seemed easier with the upcoming release for some reason.

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