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Graeme

Sequels

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When writing a sequel, how much knowledge from the previous novel is it acceptable to assume? In the example I'm thinking of, the second novel continues immediately after the first novel, but I really don't want to spend pages repeating the current story situation, or explaining who all the characters are.

Some repetition I think is reasonable, but how much should I be doing? While the sequel has a different story line from the original novel, there are story threads planted in the first novel that will come to fruition in the second. Indeed, from one point of view, the first novel constitutes the background for the second.

Is it acceptable to assume that the reader has read the first novel when they start the second? After all, you wouldn't start Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series in the middle -- you'd start from the beginning (not that what I've got planned is by any means comparable to the WoT series, apart from both being fiction).

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Guest Dabeagle

I think that some small bits of explanation as you go would fit the bill. I've read many series where things are placed in a very concise form to catch up a reader who hasn't read previous installments.

On the other hand, if you did as I did, and read Robert Jordan's 'Fires of Heaven' which I think was book 3 or 4, you find yourself going back to find out what the hell you missed. Who knows, a sequel may just ramp up readers of the original?

Regardless, some rehash but not a complete one would be my thought.

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There are ways to say things that rehash stuff from the first story, frequently in dialog, that refreshes what came before without being too obvious about it. I think that's the best way to do it.

Well, that and an advisory that they should read Book 1 first.

C

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Thank you, both! That's what I had planned, but given how much happens in the first book, I only wanted to cover the highpoints and to not have to go into too much detail about the characters.

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I just had to deal with this for the first time, having reached a logical conclusion in Pieces of Destiny but wanting to continue the story with the same characters in a different place with Shattering Fate. What I finally opted to do is to provide one long paragraph at the beginning of the second book to recap the adventures of the previous 123,000 words: "Our story thus far."

Ideally, one hopes our readers will go back and make sure they've read the first book, but I dropped in a few hints here and there (maybe too many) reminding them why and who the characters are, and why they're in the place they're in. I agree, if you try to jump into the middle of -- say -- Harry Potter, you're not going to understand who's who or what the rules are if you don't go back and read the first few books.

At least in my case, I only have, at most, three or four characters who continue over from the first book, plus we're in all new locations from here on. If it was in the exact same place with the exact same characters, that might require a different approach.

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At least in my case, I only have, at most, three or four characters who continue over from the first book, plus we're in all new locations from here on. If it was in the exact same place with the exact same characters, that might require a different approach.

Unfortunately, it's in the exact same place and most of the characters will be the same. But I think I'm on the right track. Thank you!

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It may be useful to you, Graeme, to consider a distinction I'd like to offer: (A) Catching a reader up on key events that took place in a preceding work so the reader is able to understand the plot and its development, and (B) Giving the reader the flavor of character personalities and relationships among the characters, perhaps including how they have changed and developed over time.

Information about (A) should probably be set out close to the beginning of the sequel, while (B) can be slipped in here and there, as found necessary to the reader's understanding, by means of snatches of internal train-of-thought, bits of dialogue among characters, and/or memory prompts that occur within the physical environment of the story. This might make your catching-up task easier by spreading it out somewhat and making it more spontaneous to the new story.

Blocks of text explicitly labeled "What has gone before" often seem to me to be awkward digests that in fact are hard for readers to digest. I think they tend, sometimes, to block a reader's easy entry into the new story.

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Thank you! That's along the lines of what I'm thinking. The opening scene between a couple of the main characters will be discussing what's about to happen, and putting it in the context of what's gone before. At least that's my current plan....

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The tricky thing is avoiding putting info-dumps into "As you know, Bob" dialog. You see this even in professional writing, particularly TV and film.

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The tricky thing is avoiding putting info-dumps into "As you know, Bob" dialog. You see this even in professional writing, particularly TV and film.

Oh, yeah, those side-conversations that are all exposition can be killer dull. I hate when that happens, and I catch them doing it all the time about the halfway point in a dramatic show, where somebody says, "the criminal we've been looking for has done X, Y, and Z, and we've exhausted all the leads in areas 1, 2, and 3," and essentially restate the entire plot for anybody who just tuned in. I've even caught shows where a character says, "who is this guy again?" and they have to explain who another character we haven't seen in three episodes is.

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A thought that bothers me, but creates problems that can be difficult to cope with is... the spoiler.

Should you start the sequel with a warning that this is a sequel and that if the reader starts here then no matter how much they enjoy it, especially if they enjoy it, they will have ruined their enjoyment of the precursor.

Personally, I hate the way some authors: Kellerman, Connelly, Gerritsen... need to be read in the correct sequence. If you pick up the wrong "first" one on an airport news stand you may never get full enjoyment from a half dozen other works.

Even the knowledge that B is a sequel to A tells you that the main characters of A made it to the end or at least as far as a sequel. Perhaps thats why we find three inch thick paperbacks... it's just the author's way of avoiding us starting in the wrong place.

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That raises another interesting issue, the writer who deliberately sets out to write a multi-volume linked story that, upon reading, reveals itself as a tale that might just as well have been told in a single stand-alone volume, or two at most. Such an undertaking is particularly evident in the specialty genres like science fiction and fantasy. I view it as an attempt on the part of some authors to create a pension plan.

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Sometimes an author just has a lot to say to complete a long story, and it makes sense to split it up. I'm thinking of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as an example. All three books were very good reads, and the fact there were three did tell us going in that she had survived, but little else.

I don't remember just how the writer brought us up to date on what had happened in each of the previous books. But there were a lot of characters reviewing what had happened in the past as it related what was happening then, and that's probably where it was done. I don't remember being offended by it. It was mostly police officers rehashing it, and they had a different slant on what had happened and why, which kept it interesting.

C

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That raises another interesting issue, the writer who deliberately sets out to write a multi-volume linked story that, upon reading, reveals itself as a tale that might just as well have been told in a single stand-alone volume, or two at most. Such an undertaking is particularly evident in the specialty genres like science fiction and fantasy. I view it as an attempt on the part of some authors to create a pension plan.

Sometimes, I think what happens is that an author will have an idea, but isn't sure a multi-volume story will be successful. They'll write the first one as a standalone, and if it's successful, they'll write the sequels. I've seen numerous examples of this where there's a standalone first novel that becomes a series. In movies, Star Wars is a good example. The original was a standalone movie, but George Lucas had plans for more. If Star Wars hadn't been successful, it would have stopped at the original. As it us, we're now up to six movies....

In my case, I had originally intended to cover what's going to be in the sequel in the epilogue of the first novel, but as I was nearing completion, I realised that I had enough material to cover that it could warrant a novel if I expanded on a number of points, hence my question about how to deal with a sequel. In this case, yes, there are definite spoilers in the sequel, but I don't see how that can be avoided.

In effect, I've got one story with two climaxes (I hope). The first climax ends the first novel and the second climax will hopefully end the second. They could be written as one large novel, I suppose, but It would be like Raymond Feist's original Magician novel. I bought it as a single novel, but I believe it's now largely sold in the USA as two novels for the two halves of the story, because it really does have two halves. In my case, the first novel comes to, I hope, a satisfactory conclusion (ie. you're not forced to read the next one because the ending of the first is unsatisfactory), but there's hopefully going to be a strong interest in known what comes next.

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Then, there's Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series -- part of which was used in the film Master and Commander -- which is 18 full length novels, with storyline after storyline succeeding each other. Each novel is essentially self-contained, though the protagonists live through the entire series.

The series is not like a detective series in which the protagonist moves from mystery to mystery. Rather, it lies between a single novel, which would have been enormous, and a mystery series. The characters in O'Brian's work grow/evolve through the 18 books.

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Personally, I hate the way some authors: Kellerman, Connelly, Gerritsen... need to be read in the correct sequence. If you pick up the wrong "first" one on an airport news stand you may never get full enjoyment from a half dozen other works.

How is this any different from the Lord of the Rings books or the Harry Potter fantasies? Those don't work well out of order, either.

Even the Anne Rice Vampire Lestat books really have to be read in a specific order, lest you get very confused about an unfamiliar character wandering through. I think that's the nature of a multi-part story: you can't read them in random order. If you're at an airport, then my advice would be a) use a Kindle or iPad so you can download the books in the correct order, or b) buy a self-contained novel that has no sequels.

On the other hand: each of the Sherlock Holmes stories is more or less self-contained, provided you understand who Watson, Mycroft, Inspector Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and Sherlock himself are.

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My quick guess is to start completely over using either the same characters, or their descendants in the same or changed set and setting and treat it as a completely new story. It should be "Stand Alone" as much as possible. Refer to the past rarely.

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On 2/24/2014 at 9:55 PM, The Pecman said:

I just had to deal with this for the first time, having reached a logical conclusion in Pieces of Destiny but wanting to continue the story with the same characters in a different place with Shattering Fate. What I finally opted to do is to provide one long paragraph at the beginning of the second book to recap the adventures of the previous 123,000 words: "Our story thus far."

Ideally, one hopes our readers will go back and make sure they've read the first book, but I dropped in a few hints here and there (maybe too many) reminding them why and who the characters are, and why they're in the place they're in. I agree, if you try to jump into the middle of -- say -- Harry Potter, you're not going to understand who's who or what the rules are if you don't go back and read the first few books.

At least in my case, I only have, at most, three or four characters who continue over from the first book, plus we're in all new locations from here on. If it was in the exact same place with the exact same characters, that might require a different approach.

Just out of curiosity, cause I'm sure I'll get in so much trouble for this, but was there ever any more to that sequel? 😯

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12 hours ago, Cole Parker said:

I miss Pec.  He just seemed to disappear.  Sure would like to see him back here.  Terrific writer, too.

 

Amen to that.

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