The Trouble with World-Building… Twice

Man, I thought world-building was tough. As much as I love going into the details of a place and its people in my stories, even I must admit that it can be a lot of work.

But I had no idea just how difficult it could be to world-build for a second time

One of my mantras for the last two years has been that The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy is not a traditional sequel. Some of the characters from WoEM are carried over, but ultimately, I want it to be an independent story. I want a reader to pick up WoEL and feel just as immersed in the world without having to read its predecessor first.

That is much easier said than written.

Two of my characters in Legacy, in particular, follow story arcs that are the direct result of events that occurred in Memento. This brings up some difficult questions that I am frankly not sure how to answer yet:

  1. I don’t want to leave a new reader (someone who hasn’t read Memento) out in the cold, so the info must be included. How do I convey that background without simply rehashing Memento in info-dumps?
  2. In the same vein, I don’t want people who already read Memento to feel like they’re getting the same info twice. Is there a way I can give the necessary background without being redundant?
  3. Is all of this just a matter of sprinkling in the previous context in small bites, so that new readers feel in the loop and old readers are still reading a new story?

Temporary Solutions

So far, I have gone with option 3, revealing small bites of detail through dialogue or perhaps the character’s train of thought to not overload the narrative with background that some readers may already understand.

This still leaves me with one conundrum…

At a certain point, a new reader has to understand certain basic details about the character’s background in order to buy into their arc and feel the stakes rising.

These are not details that I want to tease out over the course of the entire book. I want to drop this context as soon as possible and run with the new arc. Doing so naturally, it seems, is the problem.

Dear other writer friends: How have you solved this dilemma? Or did you avoid it all together by just throwing your hands up and saying READ BOOK ONE!!!! Because I’m considering that as an option.

Steve D

6 thoughts on “The Trouble with World-Building… Twice”

  1. Since this isn’t a true sequel, I would probably lean toward writing it as a standalone love. I might edit out details that aren’t essential to this story, but I’d treat it as if I didn’t write the first book. Look at urban fantasy. We’re on earth, but they still describe the city or location even though we understand it. If authors go through those lengths for a familiar setting, I think returning readers will be forgiving.

    1. That’s a good point. My strategy so far has been to stay “in the present” with my characters, so they’re really only focused on what’s in front of them rather than re-hashing previous events. Having that outlook has helped me stay away from retelling the first story.

      1. Perhaps keep background to the bare essentials for this novel, and let audiences choose to go looking if they want to. At the end of the day this story has its own tale to tell, without also serving the previous one.

      2. Interesting take. I like the idea of a minimalist approach to background. Sort of like revealing background info on a need-to-know basis. Thanks!

      3. Mmm. I can’t help but think of stories like Dragon Wing or Winds of Fate, that either featured a 1-2 sentence summary, or a quick scene flashback; enough to establish what the character was specifically remembering, but no more.
        I think it’s good to give the audience a taste of how “this world and these characters have a past that predates page 1, but that is not this story.”

      4. The Wheel of Time series, too, tends to glaze over previous events assuming the reader knows everything already. I’ll admit that in that series it can be frustrating, because I don’t always remember the details of what happened to certain characters, so it does appear to be a balancing act between not being redundant, and not leaving your reader with more questions.

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