I’ve been a movie fan for a long time. Bob says I spoil the experience by over-analyzing. But, as a writer, I like to figure out what makes a story work.
And when a film reaches into the heart of its audience, you can be sure that Hollywood is paying attention. The industry has an uncanny ability to take a popular film and expand on it, giving the audience more of the story they loved the first time around.
They are going to make a sequel.
Sometimes we write a single blog post and it becomes an instant hit. Lots of page views, lots of social media sharing, lots of responses and questions in the comments.
We didn’t plan to write more on that topic, but we see that our readers would like more. And we want to keep them happy.
Same thing happens in Hollywood. Think of the three movies in the Aliens franchise. And the Godfather series. Taking advantage of the success of the first ones, they continued the themes, expanded the stories and had more hits on their hands.
5 Hollywood Sequel Tricks for Bloggers
You can use the tricks of movie executives and screenwriters to leverage one very successful post into a powerful series. Here’s how:
1. Build on the popular.
Hollywood calls it “more of the same, but different.” Some people think The Empire Strikes Back was even better than its popular predecessor, Star Wars. The execs in tinsel town are very good at jumping into work on a sequel almost before the first weekend’s box office receipts are counted.
Blogging lesson: You don’t count tickets sold, but if you watch your page views, comments and analytics, you, too can see what is popular and create content on the original topic but with a new spin.
2. Expand and deepen the original idea.
Pixar did this well with the three amazing Toy Story movies. In the last one, Toy Story III, they beautifully deepened the themes of loss and aging from the second film. So you really felt the progression and the growth of Andy as he gives up his toys for good.
Blogging lesson: Take a popular post and go deeper with it. You might take a “7 Tips for…” post and make separate posts out of each of the seven tips. And there you go, an 8-part series. Or, take a question from your comments and turn it into a sequel post.
3. Connect to the original storyline but surprise us.
Even at what seems to be the last movie in a series, or with just a single movie, Hollywood writers keep the options open. The Men in Black movie franchise is an example.
Remember at the opening of the second movie, when Agent K, Tommy Lee Jones’s character, showed up working at the post office? They didn’t kill him in the first movie (just zapped him with the neuralizer and made him lose his memory), in case they wanted to bring him back.
Blogging lesson: Make references to your original post, but show us entirely new things in your sequel posts. For your new readers, it helps to recap and then link to your first post. If your mind is thinking series, leave an intriguing question at the bottom of your post to elicit reader curiosity and hint at what’s to come.
4. Don’t give it all away.
The Harry Potter films are a perfect example of this. Master screenwriters who have their series hats on always leave something unresolved at the end of each movie. At the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Voldemort breaks into Dumbledore’s tomb to steal the Elder Wand. Of course, the cliffhanger question is, what power will he possess?
Blogging lesson: The endings to your series posts may not be ‘cliffhangers’ in the true sense of the word, but they should leave your readers wanting, or wondering, or both. Hint at something your readers wants or needs to know, so she’ll come back to your next post for the answer.
5. Reward audience loyalty.
Hollywood movies sometimes have zingers and inside messages that only the people who saw the previous movie will get. It gives them the satisfaction that they are in the “inner circle,” the people in the know. They get the joke and others don’t.
The second Indiana Jones movie did this by using catch phrases from the first that made devoted fans grin, but still made some kind of sense to new moviegoers.
Blogging lesson: While you don’t want to make certain readers part of a community that excludes others, you can reward your blog’s regular readers in other ways. Consider highlighting a comment one of them made in the previous post and using it to start your new post, complete with their name and a link to their blog or website.
News flash: This is a red-letter day for Bobwp and me. We are excited to announce the launch of our new site, Energize Your Blog. We’ll be providing tips, resources and updates to help you solve your peskiest blogging challenges. Our first 6-week online course starts in September!
What about you?
Do you have a popular post that is ripe for a sequel?
Have you written any blog post series on the same topic?
Have you ever found rich new material hiding in a past post?
This post originally appeared on For Bloggers By Bloggers.