I'm writing the second Nicholas Colt thriller, and the storyline in book #1 is very much pertinent to the storyline in book #2. I don't want to assume that everyone who reads book #2 will have already read book #1, so I'm trying to incorporate all the back story into the first few chapters. I'm using some exposition, and some dialogue, and trying to avoid the dreaded "info dump."

For those of you writing a series, how do you generally handle back story?

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I could tell you, but then...

Seriously, the best method of this I've seen so far is one used by Tana French. Read any of her books and you get a sense of the backstory of the others, but she uses a very unique method of connecting them.
Hi Jude,

I treat back story like a spice. I sprinkle it in here and there as needed. I don't dump it in at once. If it reads like an info dump to you then it probably is. There are different ways to incorporate back story. Just remember to do it when you feel like there's a detail the audience should know. Don't feel like you gotta reveal it all at the beginning.

My next book is the first installment of my series BUT the main detectives were in my last novel, "Melody". So I incorporated just a little bit of info and it was all that the audience needed because to be honest, what they did in the other book had nothing to do with this one. So the back story was just to give the audience who hadn't read the other book a chance to see what these characters had dealt with before. But I probably only used three lines of back story and I did it in dialogue so it fit well.

Don't think you have to tell everything that happened in the first book. You might not need to incorporate what happened in the other book at all. People will know this is the second book, just take off where you left off with this one. Let the folks buy the other one if they want to know what happened, LOL. I've read many sequels where the author didn't say jack about what happened in the other book and these were books where I didn't read the first ones, just caught up to the series in the middle. I wasn't lost at all. In fact what they left out made me more interested in reading the older books.

Back story is tricky and sometimes we try to put it in when we really don't need it. If there's something you really need, sprinkle it throughout.

Best Wishes!

A sadistic admirer has been stalking Detective Brianna Morris for months and now her friend Cheyenne Wilson has been beaten and left for dead:
Giving Up The Ghost Coming 2011
I, too, am writing a series. They are not necessarily written in sequence. I don't think you can, or should, try to incorporate ALL of the back story into any of the sequences - only a brief synopsis of the portion that is essential or relevant to the story you are trying to tell. Maybe there is a quirk in your protagonist's way of working, or why s/he is asking/demanding help from an unusual source, or why s/he is working outside the rules. If that is because of something in the back story that can be briefly (briefly) explained (without going into a lot of details) then incorporate it into some piece of dialogue. It may be relevant in one piece of work and not in another. But, for the most part, each novel - even in a series - should be able to stand on its own. Look at the Spencer series written by the great writer, Robert B. Parker. Periodically there were brief references to things that happened in other books but nothing critical that required the reader to have read the previous book or even to understand the reference.
I am writing in the first person, so I have to rely on dialogue or some narrative rambling in between scenes or dialogue. Since my series is very much a character study as well as crime-focused, I get a lot of mileage out of dialogue. In my first book, TESTAROSSA, I told a lot of the hero-narrator's backstory at the beginning of each chapter, which seemed to work really well.

Best of luck to you, Jude.

Julie Dolcemaschio
Author, Testarossa
Thanks for the input, everyone. I've decided to whittle 1500 words down to 50.
Probably a wise choice, Jude.
I'm chuckling, Jude. Yes, the smaller the section of backstory, the better. And even in dialogue, it needs to sound natural.


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