Without Sequels Your Reader Won’t Care

You’ve got a fantastic idea for a book of fiction. A great conflict drives the story and you write action scene after action scene in a burst of creativity. But without sequels your reader won’t care. No, not the sequel to the book. The sequels to your scenes. Sequel is one of the most important parts of your story.

Without sequels your reader won't care and they'll stop reading just like the hand in this photo stops the falling dominoes.

What Is a Scene’s Sequel 

Most authors of how-to-write books use the term scene and define that term in the same way. For the sequel, different authors label it differently, but the functions remain the same.

Dwight V. Swain calls this unit of storytelling a sequel and describes as “a unit of transition between two scenes.” James Scott Bell calls it reaction and Robert McKee calls it the “emotional transition.”

Merriam Webster defines sequel as “consequence, results.

Think of it this way: your protagonist fought a battle (real or figurative) with the antagonist. Win or lose, both your character and your reader need a moment of recovery. That moment of recovery, the sequel reveals how your protagonist reacts to this win or lose. It can be a few sentences or paragraphs or pages.

There are three parts to a sequel: Reaction, Analysis, and Dilemma.


Reaction appears to be the easiest part of a sequel, but it’s not. It is where you can connect, or disconnect, with your reader.

Each protagonist will have a different emotional reaction to a scene. What if halfway through the novel, Harry Potter gave us the more factual, less emotional reactions of Jack Reacher? Readers would disconnect because it’s untrue to what they know of Potter up to that point.

How much reaction? That depends on two things: the character and the emotional impact of the scene. The weightier the emotional value of the scene’s conflict, the more important the sequel’s reaction.

A true-to-the-character reaction does two things. It gives the reader a place to connect to your protagonist and it reinforces the theme of your story. But the emotional reaction alone will not solidify the reader’s empathy and connection with the protagonist.


Besides the emotional reaction, the sequel gives the reader an analysis of what happened in the scene leading up to the sequel. Did we win or lose or draw?

Sometimes the character makes a thoughtful analysis of what happened. He’ll figure out how he got into the situation he’s in. Another character might make a snap analysis or place blame upon the wrong oppositional character.

This is where you can slip in some backstory. Your protagonist will reflect (briefly) on how this situation relates or compares to past situations. Or, you may show how some part of her past affects her emotional reaction and her analysis of the previous scene.


Without a sequel your readers won't care is demonstrated by this photograph of hands gripping barbed wire, an apt analogy for the dilemma portion of the sequel. .

One of the most important pieces of sequel is the dilemma. The result of her analysis leaves her with a choice of two or more next actions.

When the reader sees the character’s internal process, how and why she her choice, the reader relates more to the character.

You will ratchet up the stakes or tension of the story if the protagonist must choose between the lesser of two evils or greater of two goods. Once again, her choice reinforces the story’s theme. 

Must I Write Sequels?

Is a full sequel necessary for every scene? The quick answer is yes, every scene needs a reaction. It can be very short or very long. The length and intensity of a sequel affects the pacing.

The writer must be careful in crafting the sequel. If it’s too long, it can give the reader a reason to put the book down. Study your favorite author’s use of scene and sequel. That should give you a good idea of how long your sequels should be.

The sequel is the stimulus for the next scene. Often, a writer experiences writer’s block because she’s forced the character into a sequel that doesn’t fit the character or because she’s skipped the sequel entirely.  


The scene is the big picture. It shows the action your characters take to solve their problem. Scenes can be big drama, huge action, or small actions, small dramas. They can include one or more of your characters. They take place in familiar or exotic locations. And if that’s all that you have in your story, you may have readers, but you won’t have readers who love your characters.

Without sequels your readers won’t care. With the skillful use of sequels, you will hook your reader into loving (or hating) your protagonist and reading on to find out what happens next.

Do you need to know more about story structure? Check out Scenes, the Lego Bricks of Story Structure.

If you have questions or would like to share examples, please put those in the comments below.

Are You a Thinking Reader?

I’ve been thinking about reading fiction a lot lately. Particularly about how we read fiction today. Not so much as how it relates to the fiction I write, though of course I think about that, too. We have more reading opportunities today than ever before. How has that fact affected your reading habits? Are you a thinking reader? 

silouhette of a woman reading a book set against the a sunset

A Thinking Reader

There is a book called, How to Read a Book: The Ultimate Guide by Mortimer Adler. Originally published in 1940, it identifies and explains ways people read. It also instructs how one should read the different genres from nonfiction to imaginative fiction.

I’m not asking are you a thinking reader and expecting a reply any of the academic ways to describe reading. More accurately, I’m asking what do you think about when you are reading a story. Are you thinking or are you more viscerally or emotionally bound to the story? 

How I Read

When a story is engaging and well written with a compelling plot, I immerse myself in the story and read fast and straight through. I’m “feeling” the story without pausing to think. After I finish reading, I think about the story and the writing. If there are lessons I can learn from the writing, I go back and analyze the story and the writing.

However, when a story has flaws I tend to read more slowly, more thoughtfully. Sometimes I quit reading because the flaws overwhelm the story. I can’t find enough enjoyment to continue.

I read a book recently that I expected to be much better than it was. Written by a well-known, independent author it appears to be quite popular. So I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. Why didn’t it work for me when it clearly works for other readers? Why does it work for them, when it didn’t work for me?

No Names

Image of a woman's hand holding an electronic reader--are you a thinking reader?

I won’t name the book or author I read recently because I found it flawed in a way that frustrates me. This book is what I consider a successful book. It has more than 1000 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4 stars and ranks in the top 10 in two of its categories. 

Now, as with every book, not all the reviews are positive. And some of the reviews agree with my assessment. But the majority of reviewers thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Story Premise

The story premise in this book is interesting. It’s not brilliantly original but it is an original twist. That’s one of the reasons I picked the book up.

The story premise is the simplest expression of the foundational ideas of the story. The one sentence that I discuss in The Best Writer’s Tool.


image of a gnome character with greenish skin and elf-like ears

There were two primary characters in this book. They were likable but shallow. The author took obvious pains to give these characters backgrounds that were interesting and could have had depth but didn’t.

The secondary characters were all plot devices. No single secondary character stood out as a person with needs and desires of their own.

The viewpoint used in this story was shallow at best and at worst so scattered, that I doubt the author understands viewpoint. For me, as both reader and writer, this is a major flaw. 


Some reviewers of this book took exception to the plot as being unrealistic. The plot is not well executed. It’s built for drama, not to further challenge the character’s goals or needs. Therefore each event feels equal. That does not make for a satisfying read.

Plot is the sequence of actions characters take in order to achieve their goals. I don’t demand a book’s plot be realistic. But I need the right set-up or build up. The author must either set it up (as in the character acquires or has superhero abilities) or build the character up to the point where it’s believable within the story.

The plot events must build to a climax, challenging the heroes or heroines more and more. The challenge is what makes it exciting, not the explosions or the drama.

Tone and Style

Photo of a man on a park bench, reading a book--he might be a thinking reader--are you?

The tone of a book is a gestalt of the author’s choices. From words to viewpoint characters to secondary characters to events, each of them can be used to create a tone. For the tone of the book to be successful, all the parts must be moving in the same direction. Otherwise a reader will feel that something is off.

The style of the book has to do with word choices, paragraphing, and voice. Style is the difference between Ernest Hemmingway and Toni Morrison. If you want to read more about writing styles read Famous Authors and Their Writing Style.

The Author’s Journey 

When I read an author for the first time, especially when the book is flawed, I try to take the author’s journey into account. Meaning, is this the author’s first book? Does the author read in the genre?

This book I’m discussing, is the first fiction book I’ve read by this author. It is not the first book this author created. The author is knowledgeable of the genre. But the book in question was published six years ago. Hopefully that means the author has developed technique and style over the years. So, I will give this author another chance and read a more recent book.

When You Read

photo of rows and rows of books -are you a thinking reader

When you read, do you think about the story premise? Do you have a type of character(s) you prefer to read about? What about plot, or tone and style, or something else? 

What is the one thing the story must have for you to enjoy the story? Must it have more than one? 

What one thing will ruin a story for you?

Are You A Thinking Reader?

When I ask are you a thinking reader I do not mean to imply you must think deeply about every book you read. And I’m not really asking if you are a discerning reader. Of course you choose the genres, books, and authors you enjoy. But what is it you must have in a book in order to enjoy it? What do you think about when the book goes off course? Do you finish the book? Or do you throw the book in the trash? Do you write a negative review? Perhaps you never pick up another book by that author. Tell me what you’re thinking readers.

Thank You, Dear Readers

In the United States, yesterday was Thanksgiving Day. A day of feasting and football and parades and giving thanks. And after a week of cleaning and cooking, it is a day when I collapse into an exhausted heap. But I had to rouse myself enough to say thank you. 

Image of a black long-eared dog hoding a card that reads, Thank You

I’m grateful to you, my readers, for your support. A write works alone at her craft for hours and hours. It’s a solitude that I (as an introverted introvert) enjoy. But, I write my stories for people to read so your comments, your likes, your stars, and your reviews mean a lot to me, to writers like me. And I act a little like this…

Okay, some days I act a lot like that. But honestly, I value every one of you and every response you make. Thank you.

Lest you think I’m only grateful for writerly things, here are a few posts from the past: 

And here are some of my favorite “gratitude” lines from books I’ve read.

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

“I am happy. I am very happy. This morning when I woke up, I felt good because the sun was shining. I felt good because I was a frog. And I felt good because I have you as a friend. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to think about how fine everything is.”

Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

And the final quote, that says it all:

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.” 

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

Thank you.