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Shamrock

How Much to Reveal when writing sequels/series?

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I am pondering how much to reveal of the backstory to bk2 from bk1 for the WIP.

 

In BK2 I want to keep the reason Jude is so angry at his old friend Moose to be revealed later to another character. Although anyone who reads Demon of Sphinx will know why as it is the climax of the first book.

However, for plot reasons I want to withhold that bit of information from this character as it will have a significant impact upon them. 

 

I also know that sometimes people read book series out of sequence so each book needs to be complete within itself.

 

As I know some of you are writing series/sequels I would be interested to know what you think.



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I don't know if this would help or not, but in the first novel of a series I am writing, I mentioned links to at least 3 or 4 other books. But the books in the series I'm writing can also be stand-alone novels, so. . .


Okay, in the sequel to the first book I wrote, I ended the book without solving the mystery.

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Go with your gut, Shamrock, but I would advise against assuming that sometimes the reader will read the sequels out of order.  If they do and they discover the proper order, they will expect everything to fit together nicely.

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7 hours ago, Shamrock said:

I am pondering how much to reveal of the backstory to bk2 from bk1 for the WIP.

 

In BK2 I want to keep the reason Jude is so angry at his old friend Moose to be revealed later to another character.



Maybe just don't mention why he's angry until you're ready for it? Or leave the reader in suspense. . .

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Just now, suspensewriter said:

Go with your gut, Shamrock, but I would advise against assuming that sometimes the reader will read the sequels out of order.  If they do and they discover the proper order, they will expect everything to fit together nicely.

What he said.

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How is it that I always have a hard time saying something I want to say, and then someone else comes up behind me and says it exactly the way I would???

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Think of it like this. Each book should be written as its own story. That means to treat it as if the reader has never read a single one of your books. You will need to recap only what they need to know from the previous books naturally. (I dislike doing it myself, but have to.) You will also need to keep the recap as brief as possible, so the return readers don't get bored. Telling it from a new POV or with new information is always a good option, but can be done other ways too. The point is if your readers need the information, then you have to put it in, but don't drag the story down with too much backstory. 

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22 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

If they do and they discover the proper order, they will expect everything to fit together nicely.

Agreed! 

Edited by Alley
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1 hour ago, Alley said:

You will need to recap only what they need to know from the previous books naturally. (I dislike doing it myself, but have to.) You will also need to keep the recap as brief as possible, so the return readers don't get bored. Telling it from a new POV or with new information is always a good option, but can be done other ways too. The point is if your readers need the information, then you have to put it in, but don't drag the story down with too much backstory. 

 

Thank you Allley - that makes good sense to me and what I have tried to do so far - so I will continue to do so.

Thanks also Sarah and Suspenwriter.

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I'd love to give you a you-should-do-this answer, however since I'm banging my head against the same wall you're banging your head against, it's rather pointless to pretend I do know. 

 

BUT I'm an expert on making it even more complicated.

 

Which kind of sequel/series are you doing? There are four kinds, (that I can think of. I wouldn't be surprised if I can't think of all kinds.)

 

1. Stand alones.  They're complete stories, whether you read them in order or not. Think Sherlock Holmes. The Warrior series. And, if you're old-school, (like me), Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys. True, if you read them out of order, there is a chance information gets weird. (Ex. I think Dr. Watson gets married somewhere along the way in the Sherlock Holmes books, so he could be married in the first book you read, and then single in the third.)

 

2. True continuation books, that still stand alone, but you're going to miss a lot, if you read them out of order. Harry Potter is a great example of this. I was also into Jean Auel's Earth's Children series, (not a Christian series at all), totally missed there was a first book, (Clan of the Cave Bears), and after finding out there was, regret reading that one. (Rape.)

 

BUT, one thing you have to say for the author, she sure made sure every reader understood what happened in the books before. That was the reason my fondness of the series dwindled for me. Half the book -- every book -- told all the back story from previous books. On the bright side, she taught me not to do that.

 

3. Several stories that merge into one. (The thing I didn't know about The Giver by Lois Lowry, and the thing I didn't like about it because I thought the first book was a stand alone. It's a quartet. Three people got their stories in three books. And in the fourth they all meet up, where the story continues.)

 

4. One story that keeps going. Think the two Star Wars trilogies, Hunger Games, or Lord of the Ring trilogies. That's why I call mine a heptalogy. It will be one story in seven books. The advantage is I can withhold information for a few books. But I have decided once the info is out, assume all readers know it. If they don't? Well, hopefully, it makes readers want to read it twice.

 

I suspect this is one of those things where we have to make up our own minds on how we want to tell it. And I am hoping banging my head against the wall long enough helps me make up my mind... After some aspirin, of course. :$

 

But like I started with, I honestly don't know if there is a you-should-do-this answer.

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2 hours ago, Sarah Daffy said:

How is it that I always have a hard time saying something I want to say, and then someone else comes up behind me and says it exactly the way I would???

That's what I like about being a writer. I rarely get it tight and right the first time, but then there is the rewrite, until I do. xD

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I think you have a good example of referring back to something that already happened without going into extensive backstory in the latest chapter you posted. Jude is reluctant to attend the Hendersons' party. First time readers won't know why, but it doesn't take much explanation to be intriguing...as long as you don't leave us hanging forever.
 Returning readers will have a better idea of what's going on in Jude's head, but they'll still want to read on and fund out how this conflict continues to play out.

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As already mentioned, there are several approaches. I'm in the middle of writing a three-book series that spans several years.

 

My main, overarching story-line will unfold throughout the three books. However, each book will have it's own plot(s) that will resolve within that book, all while moving the overarching story-line forward. I'm doing it this way because I hate cliff-hangers. If I properly craft the overarching story-line, and develop the characters well, readers will keep coming back to books two and three without feeling like they were left in the lurch.

 

So, can a reader jump into book two and follow what's going on? At a certain level, yes. But there's no way to fully recap everything from prior books that would recapture every nuance that would deepen a reader's understanding and appreciation for everything that occurs. That's the nature of a series. 

 

It's similar to watching a movie like "Captain America, Winter Soldier." You can watch and enjoy this movie without seeing any of the others before it, but you'd enjoy it much more if you had watched the prior movie(s).  

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I'm tossing in little Easter Eggs which I'll develop as I get to next books in the trilogy. I'm building a big surprise into the first book which won't be paid off until the climax of the third.

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18 hours ago, Shamrock said:

Thanks Spaulding. I think it is the second.

In which case, something that helped me. 

 

There is no such thing as a story without a back story. When I wrote my novel, I was so afraid I'd never find a way to tell the back story, except in huge swaths of flashbacks, or in one huge prologue. So, I made a deal with myself -- write the story, and, by the end, if anything important wasn't covered, I could choose prologue or flashbacks.

 

Weird thing happened. By the time I was done, enough was covered that neither was needed.

 

I suspect you will have the same outcome with Jude and Moose. They're either going to reconcile or not, and to do so, what happened has to come out... eventually.

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On 9/2/2019 at 12:30 PM, Sarah Daffy said:

How is it that I always have a hard time saying something I want to say, and then someone else comes up behind me and says it exactly the way I would???

Ditto! 😮

 

And I, personally, would go with leaving my readers in suspense. If I'm reading a book series, an ending that has me asking questions and scratching my head always compels me to get and read the next book. 

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18 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Man- I was just reading this posting and all the comments through, and gosh. there is some good advice here!

 

I agreed. Excellent advice. Thanks everyone.

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