A friend of mine was reading through some of my chapbooks, and told me that one of them (specifically “A Perfect World,” which originally appeared in Young Writers on Writing and later Tides of Possibility) was so interesting that she wants to see what happens next. As I was reading her text my reaction was almost like this:
Most times when I write a short story, I’m not thinking about sequel potential; my short fiction is the product of a neat idea that I want to explore, and then once I’ve explored it I move on to the next thing. Even if the story leaves off on a cliffhanger of sorts, I don’t really ponder what’s supposed to happen next, because the cliffhanger is part of what I want to accomplish with the story. So talking with my friend about “A Perfect World” was unusual, but the more I started pondering the story, the more I realized the implications of what I had written about, and the possibility to take that story in a bunch of new directions.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing for a guy who’s “to-do” list of writing projects to explore is longer than my to-do list when I used to own a house. I’ve put a potential “Perfect World” sequel aside until my friend and I can properly brainstorm it in person, but that doesn’t stop the old writer’s brain from mulling things over. The more interesting point I’ve taken from this is what would happen if I went back to some of my other old stories and started pondering sequels. With my additional years of experience since I wrote, say, “Remembrance” (which I wrote in 2012 and On Spec published in 2014) am I going to see a bunch of new directions to take that concept? Not every short story has the possibility for more development, but there might be a couple.
I’d be interested to find out how often my peers go back to their old publications and think about what would happen next. Is it a common exercise? Or is it something we do only if we’re struggling for new ideas, or a very intelligent friend of ours points out the sequel potential that we totally missed? So if this is something you do (or don’t) let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll be mulling over new ideas.