Tricky! One of the issues with a series is keeping the relevant information flowing without upsetting past storylines, various surprises and/or spoiling the climaxes that have come in the books before – It probably doesn’t much matter for those readers following the series, book by book, but what about those who choose not to read the books in order?
This is where it really becomes vital that each book truly stands alone.
I didn’t think about any of this when that first concept of a book expanded into a series. One book. Many books. Sounded great (it is great). I did realize early on that I didn’t want to produce a serial where a story just goes on and on with no ending (where the only way out is to kill everybody – on television, you know that’s when the money and/or the ideas have run out).
For me, there was no problem giving each book of the series its own story, lead characters and plot. Keeping the ties in place however, from one book to the next, takes a little fancy penmanship.
I don’t use prologues for the purpose. I don’t mind a prologue and an epilogue always feels like something extra (ooh, a bit more!) – I just don’t use them. Nor do I want to stop the story to explain anything. The line and flow has to remain gripping. No one wants a reader to get bored and wander off.
It all gets tricky when you’re in one book going one way and it’s time to bring in the links from another story, which went another way. Yet there is no way around it. If those characters then are going to play a part in the story now, they have to be brought into the picture. They cannot just land like a surprise.
Of course the answer is just to introduce those characters and/or past events the same way as you introduce any other aspects of your story – you weave them in – the tricky bit is not to over do it. Your readers might learn that the Good Guys won in whatever that book was, but new-to-the-series-and-not-in-order readers don’t want to learn how. Ideally, you’ll want them to go and find out how by reading that book!
Meanwhile, you have a story to write, with aspects from the past. There’s a fine balance to be found.
What can I say? I’m dealing with one such issue at the moment. It’s a gently-gently approach. There isn’t a how-to out there. Like most things, I bumped into this aspect unexpectedly the moment I began writing book 2 (and that worked out okay), and am dealing with it again in book 3.
Weaving in the past without over-telling it is and will always be an important detail to writing a series.
Have fun with today, folks. Happy writing. Cheers!