Saturday, 12 June 2010

On Sequels

This is turning into an accidental mini-series on exposition; you might want to check out my earlier thoughts on the importance of subtlety and expository dialogue.

I'm currently working on a sequel to REBELLION (yeah! Volume 1 finally has a title!). And a sequel opens a whole new can of worms so far as exposition is concerned. How to make the new book accessible to a new reader, without boring or alienating those who've already read volume one?

On a lot of TV shows, each episode opens with a reminder of pertinent scenes from earlier episodes. It would feel clumsy to put a similar "The story so far..." get-out in a book, but the need is still there. It just isn't safe to assume that every reader will have read the previous book.

Well, I suppose you could simply insist - but that would be not only arrogant, but counterproductive. If someone happens across a later volume in a bookshop or a library, wouldn't it be preferable if they could read it right away and then (if they enjoyed it) go back to read the earlier books afterwards?

I actually have to face up to this twice, since it seems that the Charanthe series has morphed into a trilogy (against my better judgement - fantasy trilogies are such a cliche....).

In both cases, without really planning it, I have new characters appearing within the first few pages. This definitely helps: there are questions that would naturally be asked, which will help me to bring out a tiny bit of context.

There's only one way to find out whether it works, though: I'm going to need to find some test readers who haven't read any of the series so far. Because there's only so much pretending-I-don't-know-my-own-story that I can do!

I'm in Greenland! I promise to catch up on comments, and come round and visit you all, just as soon as I get home. I'll try to keep in touch via Twitter and my Facebook page.


lakeviewer said...

Interesting dilemma; I am faced with a similar thing writing my memoir in chapters that I post on the blog. If someone just drops in, can they get enough of the story to stay involved?

ScoMan said...

I read the book "Scarecrow" by Matthew Reily which I believe is part of a series without reading any of the earlier books.

It was done well. There was new stories and plots for the new readers, but I get the feeling there were "inside plots" for returning readers, so that it didn't feel like a whole new story.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I don't know... I don't think each book in a series necessarily has to be able to stand alone. If it's meant to be a continuing story - then you can't really help but make the second book pick up where the first left off. And sometimes a more complicated series with lots of characters will have a little family tree thing in the beginning so you can see the connections without having to explain them in too much detail.

I would worry more about losing people in book two due to the "bridge" effect. For some reason, the "middle" often falls flat. Maybe it just seems to drag after the first book's initial momentum. Seems like the authors who have handled this successfully, created strong plot or sub-plot lines that begin and end within the bridge.

But really - at the end of the day, it's all about the writing. I am a huge fan of the series format since I never want a loved story to end. And typically what captures my interest and keeps it are engaging and sympathetic, well written characters. If the reader cares about the characters, they'll want to read more. And if you make it clear that the second book is "part two" - then people should really read part one first. I've never understood why anyone would start in the middle... But that's just me and my mild OCD tendencies!

JadeLD said...

Oh this is tricky, I hate reading pags and pages of stuff repeated from the past book at times. Harry Potter gets a bit like that in some books. But it's good to have a reminder even if you've read the past book it may have been some time before. As long as it's a basic reminder I think it's ok.

I've never read any of the story before if you're looking for experimental readers!

Hope you're having a great trip.

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