I checked the tags and have searched googled but I couldn't find advice on writing a sequel that specifically explores recapping. I know first novels in series should be written as stand alone. In a second novel however, when I approach it, how much should I assume the reader knows? Any advice around what makes exceptional recapping? Should any recapping also double to progress the story? Thank-you!
I will probably write you in my story. Answer:
Since you asked, yes some recapping should double as progress to the story. Or, at least, it should be relevant to what you are currently writing about.
Other than that, the art of recapping is all about refreshing your readers’ minds. You only include what is necessary and you only put it where needed. Beta readers who have read the first book are especially helpful here, since they’ll be able to tell you where a reminder would be helpful for the reader.
You don’t have to do too much recapping on main characters because the reader should already know them. You can mention their appearance again and perhaps their situation, but don’t dwell too much on what they did in the first book.
If you do mention something they did in the previous book, make sure it’s relevant to the scene. For example, if they broke a gate in the previous book and your character then has to squeeze through the broken gate, you can give a short explanation of why it’s broken.
Side characters, supporting characters, and other minor characters may need a bit more introduction. The reader is more likely to forget about them. When you reintroduce them, you should remind the reader who they are and what they do/did.
When describing places that characters have been in during the first book, mention some of the same details to refresh the readers’ memories, but also add new details and describe things in different ways. Don’t spend too much time on revisited places unless you’re describing a new area.
Do not recap the entire first book. Do not use an info dump to recap the first book. Do not use a prologue to recap the first book.
Using dialogue to recap can help limit the recap in narration that readers might skip over. Characters can reference things that happened in the past if it’s relevant.