I recently asked the great editors of Writing on the Wall about transitions between sequels. I know we are to be careful with too much backstory, often referred to as "info dump", and flashbacks. So, how does that translate in a sequel, where characters are re-introduced, time has passed since the last book came out, and you want to bring the readers up to speed without causing them to get out the first book and look things up to remember, but you also don't want them to sigh and think, "Yeah, I remember all this, blah blah blah, skip to next scene."I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
I have come across both in the many series I have read. How do you find that happy place in-between? The smooth transition?
This summer I finished a really lengthy novel, 748 pages, called Remnant. It's a speculative novel about what happened after the final battle at Cumorah in the Book of Mormon. My friend Norma had just split her WIP into two sections and is adding a third book and I borrowed her idea. It worked. Halfway through Remnant I found the perfect leaving off/starting up again point in the story. A 2-part series.
Heather B. Moore, the author of Abinadi and Alma, among other series, replied to my question and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her advice,(paraphrased). As I edited the "jump" from one book to the other, I kept in mind what the reader would need or want to be reminded of, and made those changes. The example below are from Remnant, Book II.
-Use internal dialogue and very short explanations.
She nodded, barely making out his silhouette in the shelter. She yawned loudly. “I am ready.” She trusted Muhozheena, one of the leaders of these people who had found them in a darkest hour, helped them though they were strangers to this land of boiling mud and bursting steam. They had saved Teomni’s life. And Zerom’s.
-Do not, as the author, veer from the action or dialogue too long. This is when skimming occurs.
“Do you have a longer name, like the others? Pengwi is Mane…Manegitepengwi. Bigwiyaa is Bigwiyaahio. And… Wahatewe… Wahatewe…” she blew out a breath and Sho laughed.
“Yes.” She pointed to him as they dropped over the bank. “Sho…? Shomaniwayatuka?”
He laughed again, shaking his head. They knelt down and washed the cups and pot. She would learn these names, if only to show her gratitude to this people, to address them with her respect.
“Shohopanogua.” He sat back and reached his hand against the trunk of the young tree above them. “Shohopanogua.” He shook the trunk and looked up.
She repeated him. “Shoho-panogua.”
He smiled and nodded, and patted the tree.
“You are named for that tree?”
He nodded, then turned to go back to what was left of camp.
-Use dialogue to remind readers.
Lahonti was quiet.
“What of Kirianah?” There, he had said it.
“What of her?”
Limhi noted the softening of his son’s tone. “Do you love her?”
Lahonti stopped, and Limhi turned around. He heard the steps of Nawatweda pause.
Lahonti put his hands at his hips and looked away. “Of course I do.”
Limhi stepped to him. “My son, I know you have refused to consider what I talked to you about so many years ago. But, if the time of danger has passed, don’t you think—“
“She thinks of me only as a brother.” Lahonti walked past him and motioned Nawatweda on.
Limhi sighed. He could not argue. He followed and noted they were climbing up a ravine, out of the canyon.
“You have not shown her any other behavior.”
“There were times, I tried. We have been raised together in war. What else do we know?”
-Bring out an article to remind readers of a previous incident.
He gently laid her down and reached for his pack. He drew the attention of Sho and Pengwi as he withdrew the carving, the deer he had brought out of the boral wood so many months ago. He dug and found his knife.
Zerom returned to his place at Kirianah’s side and ran his hands over the wood of his home, over the progress he had made along the way. His fingers ran over the animal’s eyes, and he caught his breath. He began to work, occasionally pausing to brush the shavings in a small pile.
Pengwi brought him a bowl of some sort of stew. He smelled berries and meat, but kept his focus. Sho offered him water, and he did pause to drink, and nodded his thanks to Sho, then furrowed his brow and went back to work, the pile of shavings growing.
Finally, he stopped, and turned the carving in his hands. Sho nodded across from him. It was not finished, but he would save it for another time. He set it down and carefully gathered up the shavings. He motioned to Pengwi, pointing to the bowl. Pengwi quickly got him what he wanted, and Zerom dropped the shavings into the empty horn bowl. He picked up the still smoldering herbs and blew on them, holding them over the shavings. He blew again, and glowing particles swirled and dropped into the bowl. He continued, until the tiny embers were enough to start a thin line of smoke from the shavings. He softly inhaled. It was enough.
Carefully, he lowered the bowl close to Kirianah’s face, and wafted the herbs through the wood smoke. Boral wood, the smells she had described of her father’s workshop. He did this patiently, hope drifting through him like the scent filling his memories. He watched her face.
I will keep trying, but I am so grateful for the good advice I am finding. I will need to apply the same thing to The Inn and The Lake. I already know I have my work cut out for me. Info-dump sites.
BTW, still no word from the editors on The Orchard, but I am keeping busy and looking forward to the holidays. Still a little wring of my hands and an occasional brain hiccup, like yesterday when I was leaving Albertson's, my mind on the book, and I turned into the very wrong lane, facing down a mac truck across the intersection. Fortunately the light was red, and I was able to find my lane, with my hand over my face, and get out of there, wondering if I could change the color of my car and apply for a new license number.
As my friend Matt would say, it's all good.