Reminders or repetition

Here’s a post at Kill Zone Blog that caught my eye: Reminders or repetition

If you’re writing multiple points of view, any time your POV characters are separated, only one of them knows what’s going on. If you’re in a Bob POV scene, it’s easy enough to handle. But what if you’re Mary’s POV when Bob tells her what Jim said? You don’t want to repeat the conversation. AND, you don’t want to repeat the same plot points from the previous scene. No matter what the “rules” say, there’s nothing wrong with telling in order to get information to the reader—it’s when the telling becomes back story dumping that you’ll run into problems.

This is something I’ve often had to deal with because I often have multiple pov.

Sometimes the easiest solution is to write something like, “After Bob finished explaining The Inciting Incident, Mary …” or “Mary didn’t start rolling her eyes until Bob got to the part about the duck” or in some other way indicate that one of the characters has explained about whatever to the other. Then they can move on together. The linked post says the same thing, I see.

I had a different but related issue in Tuyo and Tarashana. In the first, I wanted to explain to the reader what had been going on during some parts of the battle, when sorcery was being used, but Ryo — the only pov character — did not know exactly how or why. Those explanations went into the part where everyone is telling Koro inKarano what they did and saw and felt during the battle.

Oh, I hadn’t realized this until now, but of course in Tarashana Koro once again gets to be the person to whom everyone explains what happened in the land of the shades. Again, the reader was limited to Ryo’s pov, and therefore doesn’t know what happened with everyone else once the party got separated. Everyone telling the story to Koro let me pass lightly across the parts the reader watched happen, while letting other characters briefly explain what had happened to them when they were offstage.

Perhaps the same kind of thing will be necessary in Tasmakat. I suppose it’s pretty likely that everyone will find themselves explaining everything to Soretes, the summer king. That would be balanced, if that sort of scene is necessary.

The linked post also says,

Another aspect of repetition is to remind readers of things they might have forgotten, especially if they’re going to be important later. Did you foreshadow it? How long has it been since this information was relayed to the reader? Do they need a reminder? After all, much as an author hates to admit it, readers don’t always sit down with a book and read from page one to the end in a single sitting.

This is actually a place where beta readers are seriously useful. My tendency — I think I’ve overcome this to some degree — is to re-explain things to the reader, just in case the reader has forgotten something important. Quite a few times, I’ve received editorial feedback that basically went: We know! Stop telling us this! Trust the reader to remember this!

It’s a fine line, of course. You really don’t want the reader to forget something important. But you also don’t want the reader’s eyes to glaze over: I know, I remember, you said this just ten pages ago. I think if something important happened a hundred pages ago, it may be a good idea to remind the reader about that, especially if the important thing might not have been too eye-catching. But then sometimes during revision, I’m moving scenes around and just don’t notice that I’ve moved a reminder about something much closer to the first explanation of the same thing. Then it’s very helpful for a beta reader to draw a line to it and ask politely, “Repetitive?” Yes, it definitely is now, and thanks for pointing that out.

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2 thoughts on “Reminders or repetition”

  1. Yes, Mary, or realizing that you’ve removed some important bit of foreshadowing during the revision process and whoops! Now your neat plot twist looks like the worst kind of deus ex. Not that I would ever have done anything like that!

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