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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Serial stories---

   
Author Topic: Serial stories---
srhowen
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Ok here goes a question and a poll for opinions in one.

When you pick up the second book in a series, how much info do you want from the first book? Should the second stand on it’s own? Do you like books that just continue where the first left off---or maybe a few months or years later? Which do you think sells better?

I am finding that writing a sequel to my current book is very frustrating(the first few chapters because I am trying to cram a lot of info from the last book into it. I don’t want to sound preachy and info dump like—(right now I have skipped over the intro chapters and am writing the good parts—so to speak.

Suggestion, hints, comments, welcome.

Shawn
(10,000 words an counting on this book)


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kwsni
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I like the second book to stand on it's own.I like series, but not so you have to read them in order to understand them. The wheel of time series, for example.the characters are intruiging, and the plot's ok when he gets to it, but you have to read one after another to understand it at all.
I can't think of a series that doesn't do that right now...but then my brain's not working. I'll come back when I think of one.

Ni!


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Maybe you should look at mystery series if you want to see how books are done that can stand alone.

Most speculative fiction series (especially fantasy series) seem to require some kind of backfill or synopsizing--but only if understanding what happened in another book is crucial for the reader to understand what is happening in the current book.

If you can create stories that involve the same characters, but are independent as far as influences go--one book doesn't tie up the loose ends of another book, in other words--you will have less back fill to worry about.

Since every story has some kind of history, whether it's in a book somewhere or not, there is always a bit of backfill required.

Wouldn't the ideal be to present it all the same way in every story?


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srhowen
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I do read a lot of the mystery stories that continue on--the problem with any series I think is including too much or not enough. I may end up writing it to the end and seeing how much info is needed and going back and doing the first chapter last.

Shawn


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JK
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I much prefer a second novel that does not stand on its own. I think it takes a bit away from the plot if reading the first novel isn't vital to reading the second. Besides, I hate reading three chapters that summarise what happened in the book I just finished...
JK

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Holy Fuzz
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I'm guessing that it has a lot to do with the relation between the original book and its sequal. For example:

"Speaker for the Dead" stands very well on it's own, even though it's the sequal to Ender's Game. A person who had never read EG probably wouldn't have much problem catching on to what was happening.

However, "Xenocide" would be considerably harder to read and more confusing if you had not read SFTD first.

I think a lot of it depends on how much the sequal has to do with the original.

- Fuzz


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writerPTL
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I agree with JK and Fuzz. If you're going to do a series, in my opinion, they should all relate. After all, it's a SERIES of events leading up to something or involving your character. It's much more exciting if they're linked--it lets the reader know anything can change.

However, if you are doing a series or trilogy or whatever where the books stand alone, put ALL the background in a prologue so the people that have read the other books can skip it. Background chaps or "John stared at the wall, and thought back to last week. Holy Fuzz had been posing as a 40 year old, but revealed he was *sixteen* . . . John was still reeling" sentences are soooo annoying.

Just MO.


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SiliGurl
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I think they should relate, and for the most part, stand alone. HOWEVER, with that said, George RR Martin requires you to read (and possibly even study) the previous book before going on to the next. I'm writing a novel now that will definitely have a sequel. You will definitely want to have read Bk1 before Bk2, because I HATE sequels that "rehash" everything just because the author assumes no one read Bk1. If I do anything that ties up those pieces for readers who grab bk2 without reading bk1, I will do a simple one page "The story thus far..." kind of thing. Just my 2 cents.


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Doc Brown
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There is no reason that a good series *must* be read in order. My favorite series of paperback detective novels, for example, can be read in any order with almost no confusion.

Perhaps the detective genre is special, since it generally involves one character who moves from adventure to adventure and does not change much. But there is no reason why the formula could not work in any genre, if you like.


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writerPTL
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Doc--

wouldn't you agree, however, that in books that stand alone, you expect everything to get resolved by the last page with barely anything changed? That's what I don't like, when nothing can change in the series.


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Doc Brown
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You have a point, PTL. A writer might feel limited in series like that, thinking he/she had a responsibility to the reader to keep things stagnant.

I think this is an irrational feeling. In fact, the writer can even trick the reader into believing the world is static between stories and use it to his/her advantage.

In the detective series I mentioned above there were 8-9 books that were nearly static, then suddenly one of the regular characters died. All the books after that have a different tone, with the main character dwelling on the absence of his late friend.

As a reader this twist caught me by surprise, and that ended up being my favorite book in the series.

So I say that a writer should not feel restricted. You can have a static world (like a TV show) or a dynamic world (like a movie) or anything in between and your readers will be happy.

Getting back to srhowen's original question, what about putting an introductory synopsis at the front of the second book? Readers of the first book may skip it if they like, while new readers will find that it keeps them from being confused. You could write the synopsis of book 1 after completing book 2, so that you do not miss details that the reader needs to understand book 2.

[This message has been edited by Doc Brown (edited June 05, 2001).]


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srhowen
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Well the second book is not static--that is the nature of this story it must move forward. Some elements from the first book are needed to understand the second if the reader was new to the story. The problem is more in how to present the info without being preachy( a prolog or synop of the first book would be preachy.) It is a first person--so that makes it harder to do. As it stands right now I am skipping the info all together and just going along as if the first book is back story and only bringing up info as it is needed to understand what is currently going on. Don't know if it is going to work but it seems to be so far. Shurg--I've done 10,000 words on the second book and is reads ok but not as good as the first one. But that may be due to the tinkering and rewriting that the first has gone through.

Shawn


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JP Carney
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I think King has done this on the latest prints of his Dark Tower saga. I haven't read the books, but did look at the synopsis at the beginning of each book. I thought they were interesting, and I'm sure helpful if you either hadn't read the previous books or it had been a while between reads. Check 'em out at the bookstore and see what you think. I think it's a great example of what we're talking about.
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SiliGurl
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Sr-- If I were in your shoes (which I will be once I finish bk 1), I would keep on with how you're doing it. Once bk2 is finished or half way there, then take a look at how you'll link them together so that you could just pick up bk2 without having read bk1 and not miss a beat.

(Must say that I'm incredibly envious that you're even having this problem... Man, if I can just get past chapter 5 I'll be happy!)


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srhowen
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Book one is under consideration by an agent right now which may be also adding to the problem. I am full of the what if's right now. But I have the outline for this second book and I have to keep working or I will go nuts waiting.

I will check out the king books and see how they were done though I am not a fan of his current writing.

I thought of trying a diary entry--x amount of time has passed since I ect. ect. ect. then have him interupted as he gets to the current days entry---then tell the current story and end by having him sit down to finish the entry---maybe 2,500 words or so of it at the start and at the end for consistencies sake.

Anyone think that might work? That way someone who has read the first book can skip or read it as needed and new readers would have a synop that was from character POV. It might still be preachy. ALso do you think I would have to go back and do that to the first book?

Shawn


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