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  1. #1
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    Second Book in a Series - Advice

    I've written the first chapter of what is to be Book II of a series.

    The outline of the book is already complete, now I just need to do the fun part - write it.

    One aspect that I did not take into account as I was putting together my plan was whether or not to include back-stories on people and situations that occured in the first novel.

    I know most authors do this when they're writing books that are part of a series, but I also know that - as a reader - it always annoyed me when they did. It was too much like repetition to me.

    BUT - I also know that if I ever gain any real readership there will be people who stumble on the second or third book before getting the first. This has happened to me in the past as a reader and it was those times that I was very glad for the explanations provided.

    Anyone have thoughts on this?



  2. #2
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    An interesting question. The problem is that the people who read the first book think the backstory is unnecessary, since they already know this information, and the people who didn't read the first book think the backstory is insufficient, because they have no idea what's going on.

    In my opinion (take that for what it's worth), I would keep the "here's what happened in our last episode" material to the bare minimum, and just make it clear on the cover that this is the second book of the series. I would rather know that up front and look for the first book instead, rather than be annoyed and confused throughout the second book.

  3. #3
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    My advice is to take a look at the second books of series you admire. How did the author introduce the back story in those books? That could give you some good ideas on how you should approach this.

    Jeanne

  4. #4
    Rogue Mutt
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    As someone who's written a few second books in a series, I try to include a little bit of that here and there. I don't just start out with "Here's what happened before" but if I reference something or someone from previous books then I'll include a little bit of background. Like I might say, "She felt a pain in her shoulder. It was the same shoulder the Black Dragoon had stabbed her in eighteen months ago." Just try to pick your spots.

    It never makes me upset when someone includes background from the previous book in because I understand not everyone reads the first book first. Also, you have to consider not everyone will read book 1 and then immediately read book 2. It might be months or years between reading them. And if you have a crappy memory like I do, it's helpful to be reminded of things that happened in the first book.

  5. #5
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    Good comments / suggestions / replies - thank you.

    I suppose the worst thing that can happen is that the people who already know and have recently read the first one will just zoom right over that portion. I know that's more or less what I do.

    Maybe I could add a little "what they were thinking" or "how they were feeling" when it happened. Maybe link it in some way to the current events in 'Book II' to keep it from making that portion stale or unneccessary to the reader.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Gilfindel's Avatar
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    A lot depends on how much of the backstory is needed to make the new story understandable and enjoyable. You can always allude to previous events as things unfold:

    "You remember how you saved the universe last year with only Bowser the dog and the mystical Glove of Stars?"
    "Yeah. I sure miss Bowser, though. I wouldn't have survived if he taken the bullet the Grey Ghost meant for me."
    "True. Who would have thought the Grey Ghost was your own mother? Anyway, this is just like that, except you won't need to summon the Zombie King with the golden whistle Zeus gave you to celebrate your marriage to his daughter."
    "I miss her too. Do you think she'll ever become human again?"
    "Only time will tell, my friend."

  7. #7
    Junior Member JulieSondra's Avatar
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    I think including some context is smart in the second book of a series, for the reasons you folks have already discussed (reminding old readers, filling in new readers, framing new material, etc.). The only thing you have to really watch out for is "As You Know, Bob" syndrome. A conversation like Gilfindel's above is a good idea, but not if the characters are being shown talking for no other reason than to fill the reader in, and not if they're rambling the full context to each other in a conversation in which both parties know the full story.

    If two characters were, say, discussing the death of their mother, they wouldn't say "Hey, you remember when our mother died of cancer six years ago after we totally thought she was going to be in remission forever?" They wouldn't say "As you know, Bob, you were so distraught you couldn't even speak at the funeral." They wouldn't say "And then Dad really became like a different person, so we ended up having to put him in a home. He wouldn't do anything for himself after that. You remember, right?"

    Characters don't unload full context in conversations when they were both there. They don't say "Gavin, my nephew" to someone who knows Gavin is his nephew. They don't say "When I go to work at my bank" to people who have known them for a long time and presumably know he's a banker. You have to be pretty slick with your innocently placed details to make conversations work if they're designed primarily to fill the reader in. Usually, we can tell. Having someone make a remark and having a point-of-view character spiral away into a memory laced with feeling can tell us a lot more than an awkward As-You-Know-Bob conversation, but if you can pull it off, yes, absolutely, dialogue can be a great tool for backstory. Do your best to steer clear of "hey remember when X happened?" if it's only there to do the backstory thing. Readers are pretty sensitive to the awkwardness of staged conversations. You can trust them, though; they'll pick up small things. They're smarter than most writers give them credit for.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by matthewkeith View Post
    BUT - I also know that if I ever gain any real readership there will be people who stumble on the second or third book before getting the first.
    You can always create a Wikipedia page. Also, you're talking about potential reader base. If you have a readership already, chances are they already read the first book. Generally, I find when you're asking a question like this it's because, in the back of your head, you're trying to extinguish the nagging feeling that comes from subliminally knowing the answer. If your story is engaging, and can stand in it's own right, you probably don't need a bunch of back story. Think about any sequel you've seen. Would you see the original if the sequel didn't make you want to find out what happened in the first place?

  9. #9
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Heh, heh...you're a tough man, Author, but that sure does ring true to me.

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