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Old 09-17-2012, 07:11 AM   #1
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Recaps

Do you use them? I am working on book four in my series and I spend almost no time on recaps in my books. Several reviewers mention it with regards to my book:

For example:
Quote:
It's a while since I read book one of this series and it didn't refresh my memory (which is normally pretty good with books)
And I noticed a thread in the general reader area where several people metioned they skip any recap in books....

So does anyone else put them in? How do you do it so that its not just seen as something to skip?
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:23 AM   #2
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Where books of a series are published at widely spaced intervals (six months or a year) then I think a recap is probably appropriate - but keep it short, a just a few pages covering just the essentials. This is necessary because a significant proportion of people do not re-read books, and human memory is quite fallible. (Typically I would re-read a series before continuing with a new release.)

Where a series come out together, or very close, I don't think recaps are essential. If people are enjoying the series they will keep reading (immediately or quite quickly), and if not the recap is pointless anyway.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:21 AM   #3
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Quote:
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Where books of a series are published at widely spaced intervals (six months or a year) then I think a recap is probably appropriate - but keep it short, a just a few pages covering just the essentials. This is necessary because a significant proportion of people do not re-read books, and human memory is quite fallible. (Typically I would re-read a series before continuing with a new release.)

Where a series come out together, or very close, I don't think recaps are essential. If people are enjoying the series they will keep reading (immediately or quite quickly), and if not the recap is pointless anyway.
Okay.. so say a book is released once a year or os. Say you put the recap in for your readers because of that year break.. in a few years, does that recap become pointless because there will no longer be a time gap between releases?
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Okay.. so say a book is released once a year or os. Say you put the recap in for your readers because of that year break.. in a few years, does that recap become pointless because there will no longer be a time gap between releases?
I think so, yes. If not completely, at least significantly. I guess there may be some readers that leave a long gap between books even when they are all available, but I'd guess that is much less common. Watch the epic: "What are we reading?" thread in the reading recommendations subforums; most readers follow a series (even a series of unconnected books like Agatha Christie), with rarely more than a few books break (if that) between books of the same series.

ETA: Whereas with the enforced break of a year, waiting for the next to be published, a reader may have gone through a hundred books or more (many of a similar genre), and so really need that reminder.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:48 PM   #5
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So if the recap becomes pointless.. then why put it in?
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
So if the recap becomes pointless.. then why put it in?
To be considerate of those readers that purchased the early books and waited for the new one. Or would you rather encourage readers not to buy your books until they were certain the series was finished? (Some do that anyway.)
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:39 AM   #7
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As a reader, I'm not too fond of recaps. However, I do appreciate it when the author drops hints and clues to remind me about what happened in earlier books.
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:52 AM   #8
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As a reader, I'm not too fond of recaps. However, I do appreciate it when the author drops hints and clues to remind me about what happened in earlier books.
That I do. Stuff like "Hey Alice this is just like that time when you ate that mushroom..."
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:55 AM   #9
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Yes, I'd agree with that. As a reader, I prefer not to see a recap - I feel I have to read it even if it's just going over material I know well - but maybe a few lines of background when each major character/incident/plot point is reintroduced would help refresh my memory.
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Old 09-18-2012, 09:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
That I do. Stuff like "Hey Alice this is just like that time when you ate that mushroom..."
Perhaps I should clarify my previous response: a recap can be a good thing when that background information is necessary to reader (ie. part of the same story arc). It should not be provided if that background is not critical (eg: new story is only loosely connected to the previous one - just a coincidence of characters and location).

It is curious to see where recaps have been used and where they haven't. The Harry Potter books don't, but then each story stands reasonably well on it's own and Rowling is clever at covering what background you need. The books of the various Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson each have a recap, while, curiously, The Gap series does not (and The Gap series is very much just one huge book published over five volumes). Early Riftwar Saga books have a recap, later ones do not.

The fact that you have had reviewers looking for a recap suggests to me that you might need one, or you might need to spend more time building such background details into your subsequent books. Again I look to comments I've seen on these forums from readers that intend to wait for a series to be completed rather be forced to wait between books - could a recap help to alleviate that problem? If so, then surely a few pages of effort would be worth it. And then the reverse question: what harm does it do? (Assuming you can keep it short.)
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:52 PM   #11
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And then the reverse question: what harm does it do? (Assuming you can keep it short.)

I have seen readers say "I hate recaps, it is an insult to my intelligence" or something along those lines in various places.
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Old 09-19-2012, 05:01 AM   #12
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I have seen readers say "I hate recaps, it is an insult to my intelligence" or something along those lines in various places.
Yep, people can be strange. (The fact that they can't simply ignore what they don't need/want to read says something in itself. It's like those people that insist on watching violent or explicit movies and then complaining about them later. Yes, I often read a recap even when I don't need it, but complain about it? What a strange idea.)

In my mind it all comes down to whether you can cover what is needed elegantly within the main text, if you can then that is obviously the best way to go. If, however, covering what you need becomes an ugly intrusion into opening the next book (and I've seen some very ugly examples), then a recap (IMO) is the less offensive option because the reader can choose to skip over it if they don't need it. (And when the author brings out their first quartet , they can just drop all those neatly isolated redundant pages.)
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