A Tale of Two Jameses: Or Direct Sequels Vs Series

Here's a question for you: is there a difference between a direct sequel and a continuing series?

For the sake of argument, let's say yes! And because we're I'm saying yes, here's my reasons why.

I invest my time in sequels and series for two slightly different reasons. In the sequel, I wanna know what happened at the end of that book with the epic cliffhanger or the open ending.  In a series, chances are I love the characters and their world and I want to spend more time with them on their continuing adventures... And I'm aware a sequel preeeeetty much does the same thing...

Like I said, slightly different.  Brilliant characters are what keep me hooked, and the thing I hope will bring readers to my books someday. That being said, don't feel like you have to create a sequel or a series. Some stories only need to be told once.

However, some worlds and stories and characters can go on.  Some need to. And because I'm claiming there is a teency weency itty bitty difference between a sequel and a series, I'm going to use two of my favourite Jameses to emphasis my point.  And before you go on, there are huge spoilers for Skyfall and Star Trek in this!

So, on one side, we have Bond, James Bond.

I consider his stories - both the books and the films - to be a series.  They have the same key characters throughout, but the stories aren't directly linked to each other (with the exception of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace...ah, but only the films. Not the books). The most recent film, Skyfall, stands alone.  At no point does anyone clearly make a reference to the plot of a previous film.  Skyfall has plenty of nods to its history throughout due to the franchise's fiftieth anniversary, but Bond never mentions previous missions ("Yeah, this one time my friend got his legs bitten off by a shark..."). You could pick up any Bond movie and know exactly who this character is and what he does.  Bond has always been Bond, even with Daniel Craig's version having a few tweaks to his personality (YMMV).  The character has remained unchanged for over fifty years.  Even the tears he shed after M dies in his arms at the end of Skyfall aren't likely to signify a massive personality shift.  We can safely assume that Bond will always be that James Bond, therefore his stories form a series.

Then we have Captain James T Kirk of the USS Enterprise

I consider his second story be be a sequel.  Star Trek Into Darkness picks up a year after the previous film, the events of which are not only clearly referenced but also have a massive influence on what happens in this film.  His character has changed from angry drifter to confident captain... with more than a few bumps along the way (like losing his mentor and that one time he sacrificed himself to save the lives of his crew and I cried and cried and cried). By the end of Into Darkness, the cocky man from the start of the film has changed into someone a little calmer.  Who knows how he'll act in the next film. Some things are set, others can change. And chances are the horrible messes created by various factions in this story will impact upon the future of the world... The Reboot!Kirk is already quite different from his Shatner-era self, but it'll be great to see how he continues to develop.  Therefore, the open ending to this film and the character development lends itself to a sequel.

I do enjoy sequels and series. I love to watch characters develop and change and grow and learn. That's an essential element in a sequel. In a series, such development can take a lot longer.

While lots of elements link sequels and series to make them almost indistinguishable from each other, I'm fairly certain there are a few differences.  Which do you prefer to read/watch/write?


  1. One significant difference is you expect a finite end with sequels. The HARRY POTTER series is, essentially, six sequels to the first book. But the story concludes with Book 7. In a series, the characters have different adventures that may or may not be related, and the series will continue until the author decides s/he's had enough. Or dies. But even that doesn't stop some (how long has Ian Fleming been dead--50 years?!).

    Speaking of Bond, there are some points of continuity between some of the books. As I recall, DR NO starts with Bond recovering from being jabbed by a poisoned knife at the end of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. That's just one example, because that's the only one that jumps to mind right now. But still, the books are a series, not sequels.

    Good discussion, Cole! :D

    1. Good point. And yeah, Fleming died just before Goldfinger hit the cinemas in 1964 so he's been gone for a while. And the books still come out every now and then!

      Yeah, I've read a few that make a reference to a previous book (sometimes as a footnote!), but the films tend to be much more standalone.


  2. Great examples to demonstrate your point. I'm definitely a sequel/series/givememoreoftheseawesomecharacters kind of gal. ;)

    1. Thank you!

      Yeah, I definitely like spending more time with the characters I love, especially the Jameses ;)


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