Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What's the worst thing about writing the middle book of a trilogy?

Actually, the worst thing is exactly the same, no matter if it is book 2 or book 3.

It's how to remind the reader of what went before.
Too little, and you have them mystified.
Too much, and you bore them to tears.
Too poorly executed and you end up with silly conversations or paragraphs of recap or masses of flash backs.

The toughest thing is always, always, always to get it just right.

In fact, I don't think you can. Why not? Because no two readers are the same. Someone has a photographic memory and doesn't need to be reminded at all. Same with the guy who just put down book 1 and immediately picks up book 2.

Other readers have lousy memories and don't remember anything, or they let a couple of years lapse before they get around to reading book 2.

How can you please everyone?

You just have to take a stab at it.
In the past the fashion often seemed to be to write a synopsis of the previous book(s) and include that at the beginning. No one seems to do that these days. I must admit I always found such synopses incomprehensible. I much prefer to have necessary info inserted discreetly as I read. Bits here and there.

And believe me that is tough to do.

More on this tomorrow.


Jo said...

It must be tough. I recently read book 3 of a trilogy. They did have a bit of a synopses at the beginning but it left me none the wiser. Gradually through the book I was reminded of the previous books (actually it was book 2 I had trouble remembering) but I never did figure out where some characters originated.

Marina said...

I like books that do the separate "our story so far" recap at the beginning. If I don't remember the previous book(s) it brings me up to speed quickly, and if I do remember I can just skip it and it removes the need for those annoying "as you know, Bob" reminder-type conversations. Either way I also find it interesting to see what the author thinks are the important things I need to know from previous book(s). Things that stick in my mind may not be the things the author considers important to the plot. It's like getting spoilers almost. "What, you mean that apparently insignificant conversation with the wizard in the middle of book 2 was actually the key to the whole resolution of the series??"

Jo said...

I would say that pretty well covers it Marina. Especially when there are months and sometimes even years between publications.

Glenda Larke said...

Thanks for the comment, Marina. That's interesting. I think you must be disappointed a lot these days though, because as far as I can see, the trend is definitely not to have a synopsis. They are very hard to write, so that might have something to do with it.

I did think of having a glossary at the back of the book, in which things are explained, e.g. what can be done by magic and what can't, or who the characters are. That way, the reader could look up something they needed to know. Trouble with that is that they might not know it's there until they get to the end...