1. Genghis McCann
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    Genghis McCann Member

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    How to reintroduce characters in a second book

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Genghis McCann, Oct 17, 2015.

    How do you reintroduce characters and events in a second or subsequent book written as a series?

    I want to give enough information that someone who hasn't read the first book will still find the second book interesting on its own, but I don't want readers who have read the first book to get bored by constant descriptions of what they already know. Because it's a sci fi setting, there are technical details of how things work in the first book, and I feel I'm getting bogged down by repeating the same explanations when tools and gadgets are reintroduced, and some of my synopses of events that happened earlier are beginning to seem "stodgy" to me.

    Any tips?
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I've read books where the characters were simply represented again in a different way from the MCs PoV and how magic/past events were just blatantly told.
    It worked I guess, but i read the previous books so dunno if that's the best way.
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good question, whether you're writing sci-fi or not. Are each of your books capable of 'standing alone,' or are they direct sequels that complete a story over several volumes?

    I'd say if they are direct sequels, just carry on from where you left off in the previous book. (Think: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King ...Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series ...or Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, The Last Argument of Kings ...all part of the First Law trilogy.) The direct sequel format often comes with a short synopsis of what has gone before, but readers are encouraged to read the books in sequence. Make sure you do indicate either on the cover or even in the title that a book is Part One, Part Two, etc, or you risk people buying them out of order.

    On the other hand, some authors use the same characters and settings in subsequent books—but they are careful to make the books 'stand alone' —even if taken all together they do present an overall arc. However, it's possible to read the books out of order and still enjoy them. The one that springs to mind is Kage Baker, author of The Company series of books, that deal with time travel and cyborgs. I read the first in the series (the wonderful In the Garden of Iden) but then read all the others as they came my way. They were just different enough from each other that this skipping worked. If you skipped one in the series, it didn't really matter, as each book had a completed story arc in it.

    Of course if you take this latter route, you do have to make some things about your characters and settings clear all over again each time, so new readers can get on board. Kage Baker managed this very well.
     
  4. Martin Richardson
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    Martin Richardson New Member

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    I am writing a series of five books that will follow a group of characters over a number of years. I briefly bring them in touching on something I mention about then in the previous book - only fleetingly though as you say you do not want the reader to be bored. It may be you can drawn more out of the character in the subsequent books about their past?

    I introduced a love interest after an absence of twenty years and that conversation led to a very decent chapter in itself, It provided more meat as such to my secondary main character without actually dwelling on him. It was through the thoughts of his lover that I developed the character further.

    For further reading read about the Avenue series by RF Delderfield, who really is an expert on reintroduction of characters.

    I hope this helps
     
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  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My idea would be to casually repeat it whenever necessary. For example, maybe one of your original characters is teaching a newbie how to use a tech and he/she's explaining a summed up version of what's been told to him/her in the first book.

    If one of your original characters is meeting another character from the first book, casually mention briefly how he/she knows them.
    Example:

    You... Paul glared at Samuel who strutted into the bar. He remembered the last time they met, they had been fist-fighting over a macguffin* Samuel wanted to sell to the highest bidder Goddamn this shit, why are you here?

    "Susan! How are you doing, hon?" Rebecca cried with joy as she embraced her friend. "I haven't seen you since you left for New York last year*. I heard Samuel got into a bad fight...*"

    * Refers to the events of the first book.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is a very difficult thing to accomplish. There is a balance...and in my experience, no quick answers or tips that will suffice except in the most general terms.

    If you're writing a series with events that happened previously impacting what's happening in later novels (including relationships between characters), then gentle reminders through thoughts, descriptions, observations and dialogue are appropriate. This is true not only for new readers, but as reminders for those that might have read and enjoyed previous novel(s) in the series.

    I was in the same boat after writing Flank Hawk. What I did was read, and re-read several authors with series (fantasy, as that was the genre I was in) and using the same POV (for most of the novels/series) and took notes, identifying how the different authors accomplished what I hoped to do in an unobtrusive yet effective manner.
    I studied: Zelazny (1st 5 novels in the Amber Chronicles), Brust (Vlad Taltos series), Hamilton (Anita Blake novels--the early ones) and Donaldson (Thomas Covenant Unbeliever trilogies).

    To see if you've done it right (or are doing it right), have readers who have not read the first novel take a look at the second, to see if they're lost or something is missing. Also, have readers who enjoyed the first, read and see if they find it redundant or overkill, and possibly why. But in my opinion, I'd recommend studying ahead of time, before attempting it. It'll take time, but might save time and grief in the long run.

    I wrote an article with more details on this that was published on the Indie Book Blog. I am thinking that this portion of the forum might not be the best place to post such a link, so if anyone is interested, message me and I can send it, or if a Mod visits this thread and says it would be appropriate, I'll post the link.
     
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  7. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am no expert but I would consider how you introduced the characters in the first book might influence how they are reintroduced. I believe that is one interpretation of what A.M.P. was suggesting. Not sure if this works for tools and events as well but if you get too descriptive on a "tool" no one is going to really care anyway if it is fiction, those words will be passed over quickly in most cases. Events might pose an interesting possibility of how they were perceived later so you might take a different approach with them, expand or minimize their impact.
     
  8. Genghis McCann
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    Genghis McCann Member

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    Thanks for all the advice. It is invaluable and will make a significant difference to how I write this book, which, Jannert, is like your second example. It includes the same cast of characters placed in a different situation. Each book would stand alone as a good (I hope) read and I don't think anything would be lost by a reader starting on the second rather than the first book. AMP, tonguetied: I think I will reintroduce in a different way and I like Martin and Link's idea of involving other characters. Right now I have a fairly dreary chapter reintroducing the characters in long and boring prose. The characters are already reunited and are surprised and pleased to be together again. I'll get them all together, say, round a campfire (that's what teenagers might do) and have them all talk about what has been happening and how they have changed since last they met. It'll make a far more interesting chapter.
     
  9. Genghis McCann
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    Genghis McCann Member

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    Not quite sure if I'm using multiquote correctly. Is it used to alert posters that their post has been read? If so, reply is one message upthread. I'll get the hang of this soon......
     
  10. Genghis McCann
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    Genghis McCann Member

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    Thanks for the advice. It certainly is a difficult thing to accomplish and I've been bogged down in the early chapters for this reason, but I've had some good suggestions already upthread. I'll send you a pm as suggested for the link to your article. Thanks for the offer.

    Genghis
     
  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Posted the link on my board where you asked. Hope it helps!
     

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