When writing a sequel...how much recap?

So when you're writing a sequel to one of your books, how much recap of previous events do you think should be put in? (For example in the first four Harry Potter books, there was always an opening chapter that talked about how Harry was a wizard and went to Hogwarts and who his best friends were and how he got the lightening scar, ect).


It does feel like it's a lot different for web serials...at least I hope it is. I recently started book 2, and since pretty much the people who read it will be those who read the first book...and new comers will just start with the first chapter on the blog anyways....I thought it would actually be pretty boring for readers if I included recap.


That being said it did start me thinking, and considering a bit for the future...for example if I decide to turn them into ebooks. And I was wondering what other people thought. How much, if any, recap should you include?


I would say that it really just depends on the way you're doing the story. If it's in straight novel format (a la Umbra, as I feel like using my works as examples), and it's a sequel, I would do a chapter in which the story moves forward really slowly, but it recaps the basics of everything so that new readers could jump right in, and old readers could be reminded of things they might have forgotten. If it was a thing where it's in episode format, like a TV show, I would just do a "Previously" or "The Story So Far" part at the beginning of the first chapter, as a reminder of what's happened (a la Unbroken Chaos). However, I see it as a matter of preference; if you want to spend an entire book recapping what's happened, that's your prerogative, although your readers might be a bit angry. (See: Death Note anime recap episode)


In every story, a scene, character, action should answer the question "how does this move the story forward?". Does a recap do that?


The only recaps that I can even think of are in television, where you. Get "last time on...". And then sometimes "scenes from next episode" at the end. But those are episodic series, not sequels.


Empire strikes back never recaps New Hope. It just goes forward, assuming the audience is smart enough to keep up.


You might have a character give exposition in dialogue about who someone is or how they're connected to events, but that's as far as I would go.


Alternately, if you're really worried you'll gain new readers who wouldn't have necessarily read book 1, you could always create a separate recap page that explains the story so far in a few paragraphs. Then in the first chapter of book 2, you could just have a link "Starting this story with Book 2? Click here for Book 1 summary."...or something of that nature.

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Super: Sci-fi/Suspense/Adventure, with Superheroes


Alternately, if you're really worried you'll gain new readers who wouldn't have necessarily read book 1, you could always create a separate recap page that explains the story so far in a few paragraphs. Then in the first chapter of book 2, you could just have a "Starting this story with Book 2? Click here for Book 1 summary."...or something of that nature.

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Super: Sci-fi/Suspense/Adventure, with Superheroes


I don't know what works best, but as some who's faced the same issue, here's what I'm doing:


1. In the serial, I'm assuming that the regular readers may well have read relevant pieces of information months or years ago. This means that I've got to remind people what certain characters look like or key events as naturally as I can as part of the regular serial.


2. In turning serial to ebook, I've revised the first chapter for a variety of reasons. Specifically I actually ended up cutting the first two chapters, and rewrote a new beginning which gave more of an introduction to past events than what had been there. That said, I didn't go into it too deeply, so I'm still thinking that it might be useful to have a "What's gone before" page that describes the last novel loosely. Comic books do it all the time and since my serial uses the occasional comic book convention, I'm assuming I can get away with it.


It's a tough question. For Starwalker (which is now into its 4th book), I have a static page per book, with summaries of each chapter. So, readers who need a reminder can figure out where they got up to and have an idea about what's happened. New readers can skim if they want to just start with the new stuff, or get an idea about the scope of the story.


When I published the Apocalypse Blog as ebooks, I split it into 3 novels, and put recaps at the beginning of books 2 and 3. It won't make as much sense as reading the first book, but again, for readers who haven't read it in a while and want the reminder, it's there. And who knows, for new readers, maybe it'll make them go back and read the first book!