1. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    Second Story - Prologue Recap?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ToeKneeBlack, Apr 27, 2015.

    I'm working on the second story in a series and I'm writing the prologue.

    One paragraph will be a recap of the first story, but is this a good idea? I know not every reader of the second story may have read the first one, but would this be patronising to the dedicated readers of the original title?

    Then again, not everyone has a perfect memory, so a reminder could be helpful. What does everyone else think?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps, rather than writing a recap of the first story as part of the second story, you might want to consider a 'synopsis' of the first story presented separately at the start of the book. Something like "The story so far...." That way, people who have already read the first story can just skip this synopsis (which could be as long or short as you like) and delve straight into the second book.
     
  3. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    If it's a series, I wouldn't do a recap of the first book. I've read many good series whithout a recaps. Instead, you could subtly remind your readers of key events through, let's say, the character's inner monologue.
     
  4. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've introduced the recap like this:

    "During his hour-long journey to Manchester, Boris Petrov contemplated the events of the last few days; while searching for..."

    The prologue doesn't begin with this line, but it is the start of the second paragraph after the first one sets the scene.

    I'll probably leave it in just as a reminder to myself what happened in the first book, then weave elements of the recap into later chapters. If anyone's confused because they read the second book first, then they should really have read them in order ;)
     
  5. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that if I came across a book that included that sentence early on, I'd put it back where it came from.

    I've read books where the author has included references to previous works along the lines of "It reminded Tom of how he'd had to learn Swahili in The Case of the Murdered Mandarin."

    I've always hated things like that.

    Leave the recap out entirely. Either it's a trilogy, and people are reading volume 2 because they loved volume 1, or it's a series about the adventures of a character you've created in which case he should stand or fall in each novel. Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford is a case in point.

    As far as "they really should have read them in order"...if I knew that an author thought that, I'd NEVER read him.

    You're trying to sell a product, you're in no position to dictate how somebody should buy it.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate it when I read the little hints about what happened in a previous book. I either know what happened in which case I don't really need the reminders, or I don't know what happened in which case the little hints really aren't enough to help me out.

    I like the "Previously" section in serial books. It's clearly separate, I can read it or ignore it, and it doesn't interfere with me as I'm reading the current story.
     
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  7. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    All good advice. I'll leave it out then.

    If any readers are wondering what happened before the events of the current story, they can choose to read the previous book. I just don't want to be responsible for any reader confusion if anyone reads the volumes out of order. I'll try to make it a stand-alone story, but more than just selling a product, I want people to enjoy reading it - and reading it in the right order should avoid the problem. But you're right, that is up to the reader, not the author.

    The option of a "previously" section is intriguing - if somebody has read a previous volume and needs a reminder, but doesn't have access to the earlier volumes, they can refer back to the previously section if they want.
     
  8. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Leave it out. You want to sell books. Who is going to buy book one if book 2 nicely sums up the whole thing for them?
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    I'm in the 'leave it out camp'. It has too much risk of sounding like a backstory info-dump. And with backstory exposition, it's usually boring for the reader and most (if not all) of the time not needed.
     
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  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The trick is to incorporate within the context of the second story, the information necessary that was presented in the first novel.

    It's a delicate balance and takes planning, but I think it's the preferred method, especially if you're writing a series and not a trilogy. With a series, if you can manage to make novel each stand alone while complementing the others, it'll add another level of quality to your readers.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
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  11. ToeKneeBlack
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    Very true. Also, if the books gain any kind of popular following, somebody will post the plots on Wikipedia anyway. Not that I condone that, but it happens.

    It's settled - only the most relevant aspects of book one get a mention in book two.

    Thanks for your suggestions, everyone.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the 'series' book idea is quite popular nowadays, and people know enought to read the first one first. As long as it's clear as a bell this is one of a series (Book Three of the Whatever Trilogy)—from the title or subtitle on the front cover—I'd say just carry on telling the story and don't worry about catching your readers up to speed.

    In that scenario, you just pretend your opening chapter is simply the next chapter in the series, and carry on. You don't reintroduce each of your characters every time you start a new chapter, and it's possible to just continue writing in this vein. It's up to the reader to read your stories in the correct order.

    It's also perfectly possible to reintroduce your characters and storyline as 'reminders,' the same way you would introduce backstory in the first of your series, but it's not the only way to allow new readers to catch up.

    If you do your recap in a separate section instead—a 'Previously' section—readers who have (just!) finished reading the previous book won't suffer getting reintroduced to characters and situations they already know, but your new readers have something to refer to if they wish. I don't see ANY problem with taking this route. It's clear what it is. If you're the sort who doesn't like spoilers, don't read it. But then, if you're that sort, you probably would have started with the first book anyway. If you've just fallen over this 'second' book (in a library or whatever) and started reading, you might want to know what came before.

    As in so many writing issues, there is NO ONE WAY to do something. Do what works best for your story. It's been done all sorts of ways already. You won't be reinventing the wheel, no matter which route you choose.

    While I was writing this comment, I decided to go check to see what Joe Abercrombie did with his The First Law trilogy. He just started each new book with where the last one left off. But what he also did was offer a snippet from the NEXT book in the trilogy! Not a synopsis, but just a sample! Funny.

    My edition of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy has a very short recap of the previous novel at the start of the next one. By short, I mean only a paragraph, prior to the new Chapter One. It simply introduces the world of the story, and indicates that the stories move between worlds. It doesn't go into the characters or any plot details.

    Just checked the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series (on Amazon ...I don't own it ...don't get me started!) and she offers a one-page partial synopsis of the previous books at the end of the volume, each under the separate book's title. (She doesn't give away the endings of these books, though.) This is frequently done nowadays, as a direct sales pitch for the other books in the series.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
  13. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Tom Clancy did this throughout his Jack Ryan novels.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. If the stories are serial in nature, like the Jack Ryan books— the same characters doing the same kinds of things as they did in previous novels, but each one comes to a full conclusion—that's fair enough.

    However, I think my remarks were directed at a series of novels with an overall arc. Lord of the Rings. His Dark Materials. The First Law Trilogy. The Game of Thrones saga, where the story itself hasn't ended by the end of each book—in fact, sometimes these books end with a cliffhanger. I think recapping these kinds of stories should happen outwith the new story itself, if possible—so only the new people who aren't up to speed can find out what happened before. It's the difference between new chapters in the same story—which is simply too long to contain in one volume—and a series of separate stories using the same characters.

    After all, you wouldn't recap everything that happened in Chapter One at the start of Chapter Two, would you? Same thing with these 3-volume (or more!) stories I was referring to. The difference is, all the chapters are contained in the same volume, while the 3 volumes in the set have to be bought separately. If people buy them out of order, they'll be confused unless you give them a recap. TV serials do this routinely. I don't see why there would be a problem doing this for a book serial as well.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2015
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  15. EdFromNY
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    Well, Clancy didn't recap everything, or even most things. Just little tidbits here and there to link the stories together. Allan Drury also did this in his Advise and Consent series, wherein each novel had its own plot, but each was a subplot to the overall story arc. Again, tidbits to keep it all linked.
     

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