Feb 12, 2013

Exposition In A Series

As you may know, I've started edits on  the sequel to Locked Within. The first thing on the list of things my editor wanted me to address was my habit of slotting in moments of exposition which recap the first book's events. I was told the readers would either be coming into this book having read the first, and wouldn't need such detailed recaps, or new to the series, and would enjoy guessing why certain characters didn't get along.

I've got to say I was incredibly relieved at this request. I've found that in some ongoing series, reading through the same character introduction five or six times from one book to the next can be incredibly dull. I like being reminded of minor events and characters, but if I've been reading a series, I don't need to hear a major character's life story every time they're reintroduced.

I think trusting the reader to remember important details can free up so much of a writer's time. Like chucking out a prologue or too much build-up in your first chapter, it allows you to get straight to the point. Instead of telling the reader who a character is, you keep showing them, through their actions. Letting a reader remember for themselves why your hero and his girlfriend broke up will have a much stronger impact when she turns up on his doorstep than if you stall the encounter to explain things directly. Similarly, a character's need for revege or the pain they feel over some traumatic event will feel real if you simply show the symptoms of their pain. Repeating the reason for a character's anger can make them seem whiney; no matter how horrible the event was, the reader wants to see the next part of the story, not be bogged down re-hashing the last book.

What do you think? Do you like expository recaps or do you prefer when the writer trusts you to remember on your own?


  1. I don't like recaps, no. And it's easy enough to fit in scattered reminders of who these people are through character action (as you mentioned) or even bits of dialogue, "How did everything go at the hospital today?" or hints like that. Sounds like a good plan!

  2. Great timing on this post! I'm currently looking for the same balance with the second book in my series. I hate it when everything is rehashed too, but sometimes you need a drop of recap. But how many drops?

    My goal is two tops. Should be easy enough since the first was stand alone. *I hope*