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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To regurgitate or not...that is the question.

If the title of this blog post just made you go "Huh?" or "Eeeewww!"...I apologize. But at least I've got your attention. "So what's up with this...," you may ask. Well, I'll tell you.

I've been thinking for a week now what to write about in my blog. At first, the topic was going to be about writing and the overuse of pronouns. But a very good author friend of mine, Kelly Abel, beat me to the punch and covered it on her blog. So, grumbling, I went back to the drawing board.

Then I started thinking about the author's rule of thumb...Write what you know. Hmmmm. Interesting. Well, we're all romance writers here, and yes, we're all named Marianne or some variation thereof. But we all have very different voices.

Unlike my gracious, southern namesakes, I'm from the Big Apple. A yankee through and through, who likes to shoot from the hip and is not afraid to aim for right between the eyes.

So again...What's up with the talk of spewing?

The kind of regurgitation I'm talking about is in reference to what an author faces when writing a sequel. So to ask the question again more politely...does a writer just regurgitate the plot of their first story when writing a sequel, or do they leave most up to imagination and inference?

I've pondered this dilemma for days, suffering as I sit watching the cursor blink aimlessly on my laptop screen. The sequel to my novella, Hunter's Blood, is due to my editor by January 1st. So far I have 5k written and I am grappling with the whole 'what do I put in and what do I leave out' thing. I want to make the sequel a stand alone novel. In order to do this, I need to bring my readers up to speed quickly and seamlessly, but how?

Many an author friend has suggested dream sequences or flashbacks. From their advice I understand that it's bad form to have your characters rehash events or situations in too detailed a fashion, since they were 'there' initially. That it's unnatural and unrealistic for them to talk ad nauseum about things they already know. So what's a gal to do...huh?

I've already got my main character losing sleep over what happened in book one, she tosses and turns and her mind churns with memories of events and their repercussions. So the scenario is set. Okay. Great.

My question to all you saged and savvy authors and well-read readers, is how much regurgitation is actually necessary? How much do you think readers really want, and should it be taken care of for the most part in the first couple of chapters of the sequel?

What do you think? My blinking cursor and I await....

Marianne Morea
Author, Hunter's Blood
kNight Romance Publishing, August 2010

Visit Marianne Morea on the web at


  1. I currently have three series going on at once myself. So far I've pretty much picked back up where my prior books left off and in the first couple of chapters wrote in, where necessary, small references to the first book. I think that the main point you need to hash if you want it to stand alone too is the reason her bood is cursed, and then pick it up from that point and run with it. So far that has worked for me.

  2. Thankfully, my sequeld don't rely too deeply on the first books. There's no ongoing plot line really (though we do revisit old characters).

    IMHO, flashbacks and dreams, etc., are not the best idea. I recently read about 25 pages of a sequel that was full of "As you know, Bob" moments which drove me so crazy (along with the "telling" throughout) that I couldn't finish it.

    I'm probably no help at all. Maybe I should have waited to respond until after my second cup of coffee?

  3. The books in my series (A Faerie Fated Forever, A Golden Forever and A Sixth Sense of Forever) are connected mostly by characters. I give little tiny blurbs of the last story through the mind of the character in the next one - only when it matters. That's not at the beginning, it's more of an occasional little nugget tossed in when it matters to the plot.

    I think flashbacks can be done very well or very badly. I used them in Sixth Sense near the beginning to flash back to prior events in the characters' relationship, not prior events in the last book. I like flashbacks better when they focus more on feelings than facts.

    I'm not so sure about dream sequences. I haven't written one that I kept in (I don't think), although I've edited a couple out. My problem is that dreams are pieces of the past. If a dream sequence could be done that way, bits and pieces recalled vaguely through the hazy mist of sleep, I might enjoy that read. But I'm not sure how good a job it would do of filling in readers on a back story.

    The way you're handling it - a character losing sleep over re-living the past - is something I think most folks (me especially) can relate to very well.

    Quacking Alone

  4. I read/judged one sequel for RWA's RITA contest and got so dizzy from all the names, places, etc., put in the book from the first series book (I had not read it), that I quickly lost interest. When a reader has to keep saying, "Huh?" and reread pages and still not understand, you lose them.
    Keep it simple, but get the main facts in through conversations or memory scenes. You can't assume a reader has read your first book, although that's what we hope happens!

  5. Thanks for the comments ladies...invaluable.

  6. This is a dilemma I meet with each book in the series. How much do you tell? When do you tell? I've found that some authors are very gifted in this area and make it look incredibly easy when it is not. It's rather an art form.
    I'm very new to the writing gig, so I probably do it all wrong, but my books tend to be very dialog driven and often I find it easy to explain a past even that is pertinent to the plot in a main character's dialog to a new character.
    I will say that with each book it gets easier, but it has given me a new appreciation for those authors that make it look easy.
    You have impeccable writing skills and I am sure you will be one of those that once you do it once or twice you will be a pro.

  7. Okay, I'm bold and brassy and I'll always give it to you straight. First - big NO on the dream sequence and the flashbacks.

    What to weave in? Stick to only what is key in understanding the here and now in the sequel.

    Telling vs showing? Narration is not bad, people think it is because they do it wrong. One line or two of narration sprinkled in between an action scene or lots of dialogue goes unnoticed by the reader and it can bring them up to speed.

    And no, I don't mean talking to the reader, I mean allowing inner thoughts to be more of a explanation type narrative.

    Put in the barest backstory you can manage, be concise, and don't dwell on it. Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. They'll get it and the main gist even if you don't spoon feed it to them.

    And there ends my hopefully helpful advice.

    Good luck with the book!

  8. I absolutely HATE dream sequences - usually I skip them or rapidly scan them (same thing with long poems or oblique prophesies). I figure I'll find out what I need to go as the story evolves (sometimes I'm wrong, BTW). I like minimal back story because generally I read all series books in order. Sometimes I many accidentally pick one up by mistake and then I'll either read it (LOVE it to be stand-alone) or put it aside to find the earlier books to read first. If I am reading to review and am under a deadline I don't have time to read the previous books - again, give me just enough back story to give me the jist of the idea behind the series and whet my appetite to find out details by reading (buying) the other books. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!

  9. I'm also not a fan of dream sequences or flashbacks. I go with the minimalist viewpoint too. Less is more. Give them just the bare essentials at the start, within the context of the current book, and then forge ahead!

  10. I am not a fan of retelling the same story just to catch up a reader who may have not caught the first one. In my first novel, Human Blend, my character has quite a few flashbacks but they are told to show the horrors she endured while in the hands of evil-doers. I know when i read some other authors books, if they start telling me what I already know, I skip through that part. I try not and retell what has been told before. Any references should be brief if at all. My opinion as a reader and author. Another option, (my son told me) is to tell the repeat story but from another point of view, again briefly, just to give it a different flavor, either narrative or another character point of view. Again just suggestions.

    Lori Pescatore
    Human Blend

  11. Hmmmm. What to say after all these good points? Personally, since all my books began from a dream I had, I like dream sequences, however too much of anything is bad. Make it quick and concise so the reader knows what's going on. I don't always read books in order. Sometimes I pick up the middle one when selecting a new author and have no idea it's one of a series until I go to get another and then whola! I realize my mistake. I prefer a book that stand on its own. My Eternity Trilogies use minimal reference to what happened before. I agree that less is best.

  12. Thank you all for your advice and your opinions. It's always amazing to me the differences in people's likes and dislikes. But that's the beauty of any art form, writing included. There's something for everyone.

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  14. I had the same problem with sequels, which I never intended to write because of this very thing, but the muse decided yes. I read a lot of series books by well-known authors and marvel at their ability to make each book a stand alone while continuing to weave characters and scenes from the previous novel into the current one. And then I'm depressed because I'm not that good. When I began Ancient Blood, the sequel to Blood Line, I trashed about a dozen "first" attempts. Then I decided to just write it like I never wrote the first one and that seemed to work for me. BUT, you (and me) have all this good advice here from wiser, more experienced authors than I...

  15. I have several series going. I try to make each book a stand alone as well. I always try to avoid dream sequences although I might have a character tossing and turning over a previous event.

  16. I'm new to your blog and most of the authors here are new-to-me. I think I'm going to enjoy visiting with you on a regular basis.

    I'm a reader who loves reading books in series. The Cynsters by Stephanie Laurens are my favorites. IMHO, Stephanie is the queen of series one does it better! LOL Many characters and events are mentioned and in some cases, play minor parts throughout the entire series. But each could stand alone because of H/H and plots.

    The only sequel books I've read are the four Sarah Woolson books by Shirley Tallman. Written in 1st person, Sarah, the heroine, is telling us each story and because only the characters and location/setting are the same throughout, there is some, but not too much, re-hashing about who those people are after being introduced in the first book. New characters, events and situations are introduced in each book. Each book could stand alone, but it just works better for the reader at least reads the first book first. The order to read the remaining 3 books really doesn't matter that much.

    Personally, I would not read books in a series or sequels out of order. I would not read Bk 3 without reading 1 and 2 first...but that's just me.

    kkhaas at bellsouth dot net

  17. Marianne,

    In my books, I write only what is needed for that story. Any detail from the previous book is fed where it benefits the reader knowing that tidbit. It's not necessary to tell everything from the first book or two. Tell what's relevant to your characters.

    LOL I think I repeated myself a number of times. A very bad habit on my part.


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