How to Write a Prequel: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting a Captivating Prequel

Zara Choudhry
May 15, 2023 | 5 mins

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Prequels have gained immense popularity in the realm of storytelling, by offering a chance to delve into the past and unravel the origins of beloved characters and intricate storylines.

Essentially, a prequel is a story containing events that happened before the original work to give the audience more insight into what was occurring at an earlier stage. 

As an author, writing a prequel can be a rewarding and challenging endeavor. In this post, we will explore the art of writing a prequel, as well as giving you some essential tips to craft a compelling narrative that captivates readers from beginning to end.

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What are the Benefits to Having a Prequel? 

If you’re looking for a way to really captivate a reader’s mind, having a prequel can be just the thing. 

For an audience who become invested into a character’s life, writing a prequel can reel them in even further because you’re giving a backstory and more context to why the character is the way they are. 

It answers the all-important “why” questions which helps the original piece of work feel more fulfilling and relatable. Whether it’s explaining strained relationships, character traits or tension between two people, prequels can do it all. 

Another benefit to writing a prequel is that it allows for a smooth transition into your novel. Think of it like a roadmap with your original novel being the understandable destination! Check out this post if you’re still working on writing a novel.

So now that you may be slightly more interested in writing a prequel, let’s look at how to go about it… 

Essential Tips for Writing a Prequel

1. Know Your Story’s Foundation

Before embarking on the prequel journey, it’s crucial to have a solid understanding of the original story or universe you are expanding upon. Dive deep into the existing narrative, characters, and events to identify key aspects that warrant exploration in the prequel. Seek to answer questions left unanswered or shed light on the origins of significant plot elements.

A strong foundation will ensure a cohesive connection between the prequel and its source material.

2. Character Development and Evolution

Prequels offer a remarkable opportunity to breathe life into well-established characters, allowing readers to witness their transformation and growth. 

Introduce characters at an earlier stage in their lives, capturing their hopes, fears, and motivations. Maybe show how a tragic flaw developed. We’d also recommend creating experiences that shape their personality and relationships, like a childhood incident that built them to be fierce and resilient. 

Tip: Go back to your character development sheet and look for consistency, by ensuring that character arcs align seamlessly with their future selves.

3. Expand the World

While the original story may have introduced readers to a specific world or setting of a story, prequels enable writers to expand upon that foundation and explore uncharted territories. 

Delve into the history, culture, and dynamics of the world, providing readers with a fresh perspective and a richer understanding of its intricacies. Strike a balance between familiar elements and new discoveries, keeping readers engaged while adding depth to the existing universe.

4. Maintain Narrative Tension

One of the challenges in writing a prequel is building suspense and maintaining tension when readers already know certain outcomes. To overcome this, focus on creating a narrative that keeps readers engaged despite the foreknowledge. 

Introduce new conflicts, mysteries, or unexpected twists that add layers of intrigue. Explore side stories or subplots that offer surprises and revelations, ensuring that readers are continually invested in the story’s unfolding.

5. Pay Homage to the Original

While prequels stand on their own as individual stories, it’s essential to honor the essence of the original work. Rogue One of the Star Wars series is a prime example.

Craft subtle references or connections that fans of the original will appreciate. These can be in the form of shared themes, humor or recurring motifs that add depth and familiarity to the prequel. 

Strike a balance between providing new insights and maintaining the essence that made the original story resonate with readers.

6. Consistency and Continuity

Maintaining consistency with the original story is vital for a successful prequel. Pay close attention to established timelines, events, and character backgrounds.

Ensure that the prequel aligns seamlessly with the existing canon, avoid novel writing mistakes, and don’t introduce any contradictions or plot holes. 

Consistency in tone, writing style, and narrative structure is equally crucial to create a cohesive reading experience for fans of the original work.

7. Surprise and Subvert Expectations

While prequels often explore well-known territory, don’t shy away from surprising readers and subverting their expectations. Use the prequel as an opportunity to challenge assumptions and offer fresh perspectives. 

Unveil hidden truths, unexpected connections, or alternative interpretations that add depth and intrigue. Balancing familiarity with surprises will keep readers engaged and eager to explore the story from a new angle.

How to Write a Prequel | Summary 

And that’s a wrap! We’ve looked at the essential writing tips to help you craft up the perfect prequel and give your reader the most captivating backstory. 

Writing a prequel requires a delicate balance of respect for the original work and the exploration of new themes. By understanding the core elements of the original story, developing characters, and expanding the plot – you’re on your way to the perfect prequel! 

If need a bit more help crafting the right prequel – and subsequent series – why not hire a book writing coach? Getting tips and guidance from a successful author is a great way to ensure the success of your own books!

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