1. Melzaar the Almighty

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Aug 28, 2010
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    Series Recap

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Melzaar the Almighty, Aug 29, 2011.

    Was thinking, since I'm writing a series, how much introductory/re-introductory information is it cool to give at the beginning of each book in the series?

    Based off my own reading of things in the same genre as what I write, I've worked out this much.

    Animorphs (when I still read it as a kid) I'd outright skip the first 2-3 pages because it was all "Hi my name's Cassie, here's a summary of the entire series so far from start to finish". Harry Potter handled it a bit better although JK always managed to find time to tell us Harry's height, weight, skin tone, eye colour, hair colour, glasses, scar & knobbly knees within the first chapter or so. Also usually a recap although within narration, handled as a gentle recap while Harry was looking around his room or doing something a little more active than blogging about his last battle with Voldemort.

    On the other hand, Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett never recap plot, although Terry does re-introduce settings like a master so it doesn't even feel like a drag because he's got some funny way of telling it to you all again. DWJ never seems to set anything in the same place twice, though if we do stumble across something to make an avid reader say "Oh!" it often is passed over a bit more lightly than it was the first time she brought it up. On the other hand, reading one of her books like Witch Week, it's all going merrily away for the first 3/4s and then Crestomanci steps out of thin air and fixes it all up with no warning whatsoever. Similarly with Howl randomly showing up in the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, when for most of the book it honestly felt like the whole thing could happen without Howl there if we just take for granted the world is like it is without him causing it to be that way. Bit better handled in the 3rd book: he's introduced earlier and even if we aren't told who he is we know it's him. If you were picking these books up first you'd think it was terrible writing because you have no idea who Crestomanci or Howl were and it topples the book from the "stand alone" position it held up until that point. I never read them first so I knew exactly what was going on, but I can't lend it to anyone who doesn't read Charmed Life or Howl's Moving Castle first, so I have to make a dedication to lending the books out to people. It can be a bit intimidating to say "I want you to read this book. Read these 3 apparently unrelated books first though" like a homework assignment :p

    ANYWAY. My own dilemma then. I'm switching characters Animorphs style, my plots follow on one from another like Harry Potter. I re-use settings for the first 4 books like Terry Pratchett, but I finished a story arc with the 4th book and start from the 5th books a rather more varied approach, with my charaters all split up Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants style. So I'll be writing 4 apparently unrelated novels where at any moment one of the other characters could Crestomanci in to help out, baffling someone who may have picked up the 5th in the series without reading the rest.

    At the moment I've been largely relying on the descriptions and world-building in the first book to shore up the others, so the world only gets a cursory once over, and by the 3rd/4th books the characters hardly even seem to be looking at it because assuming I'm awesome I only need to say the name of the village for everyone to nod and get what I'm talking about. Obviously from the 5th book onwards I'll be using new settings so I've got a lot more to work with and I won't have to sit around chewing on a pen thinking of a synonym for "village" :p

    It's more the plot recap that's bothering me though. Starting a story with a plot already in place is difficult when you're used to starting with a blank slate and building up to it. And the plot I have is very twisty and left-on-cliffhangers. :p

    I still try to build up to it, as I go a month or more between events so the character can settle into "normality" again, but things will be weighing on their minds. Leaping right in with "hey so I'm a goddess now and I need to go kill some stuff" is just... Gah. :p (which is totally the plot of my 3rd book. No stealing! :p)

    So. You've got a series. How do you sum up the previous books, or do you? :p
  2. cruciFICTION

    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

    May 18, 2011
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    Brisbane, Australia
    This really bothered me in the Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka Sookie Stackhouse novels, True Blood series) which I recently finished (until next year when the new one comes).
    The start of every one of them was basically, "I'm a blonde girl and I work at Merlotte's, and vampires exist, and so do some other things. Oh yeah, I have big boobs, but people think I'm weird because - guess what - I'm a telepath!"

    Minor recapping is all I'd like to see, you know? When you re-introduce a character, use a maximum of maybe two sentences if its been a while since we saw them last, just to jog people's memories. But in a series, like Harry Potter for example, where there's a reading order, it shits me to tears when there's a recap at the beginning of every piece.

    We already know he's a wizard, you don't have to keep reminding us.


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