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Thread: How to start book two: Chapter One

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    How to start book two: Chapter One

    Ok, so - I have a strong plot outline. I have clearly defined characters, settings, resistance, what I want the book to "say" / be about (the 2nd layers and below that in my mind elevate a book), blahblahblah ---

    I am having an - and I must say - UNEXPECTEDLY difficult time getting past the first 3 chapters, wherein - our intrepid writer bridges the gap betwixt the ending of the first book and brings dear reader up to speed on where their MC is now.

    Infodumps = death.

    Any advice?

    **********

    My trilogy of books is a mystery (sci-fi noir), so I originally posted this to MTS. While there are oh-so many mysteries that are a *series*, the presence of actual honest-to-God trilogies in the mystery genre are - well - I couldn't think of a single one.

    Trilogies in SF/F otoh are - if not de rigueur - certainly a standard of the genre.

    So - dear mods - I would very much appreciate input from both communities and can't think of a way to get that except to post the same question to both boards. I'm sure u'll set me straight if I've missteped.

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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    I was in the same boat with my book 2 (fantasy noir. *high five!*) which are also mystery/thriller(??) but with an overarching plot.

    I started book 2 with a new (linked) mystery and drip fed in some of the last book as I would any backstory. ETA: if it's all part of the same mystery, you could start with some kind of breakthrough discovery?




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    The Crazy Man in the Sun. Feel me. WillSauger's Avatar
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    First and foremost, keep this in mind: The books are stand alone, thus their own stories, thus not a continuation of the last.

    Now, think: You finished the first book, start the second one. Don't plug info of the old book in, you shouldn't have to explain everything to the reader. Think: You stepped off one boat, to another.

    Unless (Get it? Big "unless" I'm being stupid today!)

    The events of the last book or in the time between is being reflected on by that character. They aren't explaining what happening, but recalling the past events (let's say a kingdom fell and it upset the power differences in the world) and he's recalling that in order to better make sense of the situation in the current book.


    As each book are their own stories, but there's a broader picture encompassing them; you recall history that's needed, when it's needed; but you don't rehash what occurred in the last book.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    I was in the same boat with my book 2 (fantasy noir. *high five!*) which are also mystery/thriller(??) but with an overarching plot.
    Doode! Smack it, grip it, snap it and end with a kuckle bump! Nice to know I'm not alone in the wilderness!! PM me! We should totally trade books!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    I started book 2 with a new (linked) mystery and drip fed in some of the last book as I would any backstory. ETA: if it's all part of the same mystery, you could start with some kind of breakthrough discovery?
    Nono - not the same mystery, but the back story from the first book comes more to the front and plays a more critical role as another murder / mystery requires the MC's attention (he's more of an accidental detective than something he seeks out & does purposefully).

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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    First and foremost, keep this in mind: The books are stand alone, thus their own stories, thus not a continuation of the last.
    Will - thank you for your reply! But wanted to correct your thinking. The above is not correct for my work. The 2nd book is a continuation of the first. Yes, certainly it's own story. I could not add the material from the 2nd book into the 1st. So - in that way - definitely not a direct continuation; i.e., is it's own independent story --- then again, definitely is a continuation of a part of the story line from the 1st. Shee-oot. I hope that made sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Now, think: You finished the first book, start the second one. Don't plug info of the old book in, you shouldn't have to explain everything to the reader. Think: You stepped off one boat, to another.
    I agree. I don't want to do a synopsis of the 1st.

    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    Unless
    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    (Get it? Big "unless" I'm being stupid today!)

    The events of the last book or in the time between is being reflected on by that character. They aren't explaining what happening, but recalling the past events
    DING! That's what I'm kinda sorta shootin' for.

    Quote Originally Posted by WillSauger View Post
    As each book are their own stories, but there's a broader picture encompassing them; you recall history that's needed, when it's needed; but you don't rehash what occurred in the last book.
    Absolutely agree- no rehashing allowed! What I also don't want to do is just pick up _exactly_ where I left off. But --- there are things that the MC experienced from the end of the last book to where he is now at the beginning of the 2nd book. But - thank you - that has given me food for thought.

    I'm trying to do something close to what Mr. Fibble mentions - dribbling in this history as back story. But I've got to get caught up. Don't I? Hmmm...

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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by retlaw View Post
    Doode! Smack it, grip it, snap it and end with a kuckle bump! Nice to know I'm not alone in the wilderness!! PM me! We should totally trade books!
    *chest bump!*



    Nono - not the same mystery, but the back story from the first book comes more to the front and plays a more critical role as another murder / mystery requires the MC's attention (he's more of an accidental detective than something he seeks out & does purposefully).
    Aha that sounds familiar...then start with what happens to kick off the new mystery. As with any backstory, only add what the reader needs to know, now, to make sense of this mystery/character.




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    There are a lot of different solutions to this that various writers have used. But one of the simplest is to use a basic principle: argument conceals info dumps.

    If you have two or more characters arguing about what just happened, they have to talk about what just happened. This can also bring your readers up to speed on the characters. If you have two people trying to take credit for things and a third who is more fair minded, or a couple of sycophants siding with one or the other you can reveal those characteristics as they argue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichardGarfinkle View Post
    There are a lot of different solutions to this that various writers have used. But one of the simplest is to use a basic principle: argument conceals info dumps.
    Amen! Mr. G, this is probably the simplest summary of great infodump finessing I've ever come across.

    Another is, look for what are the relevant effects now. If say fifteen chapters of the last book were about how to win a war and five were about the political reshufflings it led to, but the latter are what's important now, try making most of the summary about that. Take the hero's new position with new allies and enemies, and show how his struggles today relate to those (you said he's "trying to make sense of how he got here"), and it makes it easy to think "I can't trust HIM because he only joined me after THAT forced him to." --The trick would be to center around what's immediately involved (plus dropping the hidden hints you want for the future) while saying enough about the rest that readers get a sense that the war was vastly important too. But they mostly need a sense of proportion and causality, not details.

    If this is more or less a stand-alone, you don't need that much about the past just because it's the past. The best way to honor the last triumph is to make this book work so well anyone who missed the other runs out to get it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by retlaw View Post
    Ok, so - I have a strong plot outline. I have clearly defined characters, settings, resistance, what I want the book to "say" / be about (the 2nd layers and below that in my mind elevate a book), blahblahblah ---

    I am having an - and I must say - UNEXPECTEDLY difficult time getting past the first 3 chapters, wherein - our intrepid writer bridges the gap betwixt the ending of the first book and brings dear reader up to speed on where their MC is now.

    Infodumps = death.

    Any advice?

    Good topic. I'm having this exact same problem. My agent wants me to "fill the reader in more" in the first few pages of my sequel. But I'm having a difficult time doing that without "telling" the reader everything. Like you said, Infodumps = death.

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    If you're going to spend three chapters updating the reader on what happened, I don't get why you don't just use those chapters to show it actually happening.

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    It is a tough issue. It's amazing to me that someone would start a fantasy series in the middle, but some do.

    In the old days, subsequent books in a series often had plot synopses at the beginning. These were as much to remind a reader who read a previous book in a series or trilogy about something they may have read a while back as to inform readers who start in the middle of a series. These seem to have fallen out of favor.

    I think it's probably best to handle it the way you would backstory in a first novel. Avoid big info dumps. Decide what it is the reader has to know about the situation, world and characters to make sense of the current story. And feed it to them in intriguing little dribbles that make sense in the context of the pov character and current situation.
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    Great idea - thanks, Richard!

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardGarfinkle View Post
    There are a lot of different solutions to this that various writers have used. But one of the simplest is to use a basic principle: argument conceals info dumps.

    If you have two or more characters arguing about what just happened, they have to talk about what just happened. This can also bring your readers up to speed on the characters. If you have two people trying to take credit for things and a third who is more fair minded, or a couple of sycophants siding with one or the other you can reveal those characteristics as they argue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    If you're going to spend three chapters updating the reader on what happened, I don't get why you don't just use those chapters to show it actually happening.
    Dammit, I soooo hate it when somebody beats me to exactly what I wanted to say, but wouldn't have said as succinctly or well.

    Check out how other writers of series have handled this problem. Notably Ursula LeGuin in the Earthsea saga. Or C.S. Lewis, in the Narnia books.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Flibble View Post
    Aha that sounds familiar...then start with what happens to kick off the new mystery. As with any backstory, only add what the reader needs to know, now, to make sense of this mystery/character.
    I have a significant setting change from book 1 to 2. But thanks for the note - got the my thoughts going in the right direction - thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    If you're going to spend three chapters updating the reader on what happened, I don't get why you don't just use those chapters to show it actually happening.
    Thanks - you're right, and all i can say is that I've considered this and decided not to go that route. Too much to write, but just felt it wasn't the right / best choice. But then again - given what a pain this is ... hmmm... thanks.

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    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by retlaw View Post
    I have a significant setting change from book 1 to 2. But thanks for the note - got the my thoughts going in the right direction - thanks!
    The start of the mystery is then a perfect place to show the difference in this setting then, no?




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    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    It's amazing to me that someone would start a fantasy series in the middle, but some do.
    I think it originates in the bookshop tradition of only stocking book #3.

    Quote Originally Posted by retlaw View Post
    Thanks - you're right, and all i can say is that I've considered this and decided not to go that route. Too much to write, but just felt it wasn't the right / best choice. But then again - given what a pain this is ... hmmm... thanks.
    Hmm, well, okay then!

    If I were approaching this problem, I wouldn't use the first three chapters for backstory. I think that would put off a lot of readers, and I suspect you know that, and that's why you're blocked.

    As you seem to be an outliner, why not work out what's essential for the reader to know and when they need to know it? Then you can drip the information in when necessary, rather than dumping the whole lot at the start.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    Hmm, well, okay then!

    If I were approaching this problem, I wouldn't use the first three chapters for backstory. I think that would put off a lot of readers, and I suspect you know that, and that's why you're blocked.
    Sorry - 3 chapters was meant to a bit of an over exaggeration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    As you seem to be an outliner, why not work out what's essential for the reader to know and when they need to know it? Then you can drip the information in when necessary, rather than dumping the whole lot at the start.
    I can & will drip some things, but for the action in the rest of the book to be what I want it to be I can't drip these select items. I've got to get them in as part of the current condition _within_ the first 3 chapters.

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    I think the Harry Potter books are good examples of how to do this.

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    Thumbs up Many thanks

    Thank you to all who contributed!

    I think there are 3 options:

    1 - pick up where i left off in book 1
    - yeah, I definitely won't do this one. good idea, but not here
    2 - introduce a character(s) and use dialog
    - can't do it. other characters can't know these events - at least not this soon.
    3 - skip the back story & jump into the new mystery
    - another good idea, but not for me - not here

    I'mma thinkin' that I'm really gonna hafta do something - uh-oh (enter occasional music here)- out of the box.

    It's almost certainly going to have to be some portion of all of the above. Groan. Well, it isn't going to get any better until it gets written, so - thanks again for all your replies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by retlaw View Post
    Thank you to all who contributed!

    I think there are 3 options:

    1 - pick up where i left off in book 1
    - yeah, I definitely won't do this one. good idea, but not here
    2 - introduce a character(s) and use dialog
    - can't do it. other characters can't know these events - at least not this soon.
    I did #2. New character. Established readers get to laugh a little at the MC's version of how some (not all, just key things) went down. New readers aren't left in the dark.

    And we don't go into everything. If it doesn't directly mater, I just let it go.
    It takes about four chapters before I'm "done" mixing backstory, dialogue and action, and in the mean time, the next story is already off to the races.

    Incidentally, I've been told it reads like urban fantasy noir as well. So Sci-Fi Noir, Fantasy Noir, Urban Fantasy Noir. There's probably a few more noir out there somewhere.
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    There's always the dreaded prologue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    There's always the dreaded prologue.
    Buffy??!! I'm shocked at you. Shocked! "Prologue". Phtht. As if.


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    Quote Originally Posted by xC0000005 View Post
    Incidentally, I've been told it reads like urban fantasy noir as well. So Sci-Fi Noir, Fantasy Noir, Urban Fantasy Noir. There's probably a few more noir out there somewhere.
    Well aw'right then - smack it, grip it, snap it, and finish w/a fist bump! You now know the secret cross-genre handshake - yer in!!

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