Home « Forum « Story Discussion and Feedback

Forum: Story Discussion and Feedback

recapping past events

sunkuwan

What is your stance on recapping past events in a story?

Personally, I like it when Character A recaps something for Character B and Character B gives another view of the happenings or a new perspective.

Recapping can be a powerful tool for the Author in regards to either sorting past events of the story or reminding the viewer of it. Especially if the storypart or event happened a long time ago (either by wordcount or posting date).

When I come along a scenario where the paragraph is only "tell me about what happens" *tells him what happens*, I feel let down, more so, if the character who gets the recap was build up beforehand and I looked forward to his/her perspective on it. Talking about it afterward with the thoughts, etc. of Character B is a minor substitute and would have been better included in a full recap.

Of course, recapping the same thing for 5 different characters is over the top.

Lumpy

Recapping can be a good tool if used right. If it's been 15 chapters since something happened that readers need to remember, or if it was the last book/story, then recaping is good. If it happened in the same chapter or last chapter, the reader might be like "I just read that".

And, like you said, there is a limit to how many times the reader can take you telling them the same thing. This is a big gripe with Arlene and Jeff, for instance, where every time a new character arrives, they once again explain the whole "alpha" thing, over and over. I tend to skim until he's done and back to the story.

But, in of itself, recapping isn't a bad thing if done right.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Lumpy

where every time a new character arrives, they once again explain the whole "alpha" thing, over and over.

That's my biggest issue with re-capping in many stories, particularly long ones.

A new character comes along, so the current setup between the main characters is explained yet again, gets old about the 3rd time it's done. A simple "we filled them in on our history" or equivalent would be appropriate.

If it's a multiple book series, and having read the previous books is necessary to understand the latest one, but it's been a while between stories, then a single recap early on is OK.
But repeating things over & over again for new characters as they come along gets annoying rather quickly.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Grant

If it's a multiple book series, and having read the previous books is necessary to understand the latest one, but it's been a while between stories, then a single recap early on is OK.
But repeating things over & over again for new characters as they come along gets annoying rather quickly


I personally think it works best as a form of gossip. Have someone besides the MC tell about something from the MC's past it can be used to give information about the MC in many different ways.

Replies:   Grant  Crumbly Writer
Grant

@docholladay

I personally think it works best as a form of gossip. Have someone besides the MC tell about something from the MC's past it can be used to give information about the MC in many different ways.

Yep, there are plenty of ways it ca be done, but after the 2nd time it does get a bit much, after the 20th I generally just bail out of the story unless the rest of it is really great.

Replies:   docholladay
Ernest Bywater

Recapping can be good or bad, depending on how it's done, when it's done, and how far back the original was.

In general, when a character needs to explain and early activity to another, I find it best to gloss over it with a statement like "He told Fred about the attack," then move on. If there's something that has to be retold try to keep it to the minimum and tell it in a new way.

Also, in a couple of stories I have a scene where character A is the focus and then switch to character B as the focus with just the last few minutes being done from their point of view to show a slight difference to what was shown in the previous scene and the synchronise the scenes. Some people call this recapping, but I don't. When you do this you need to keep the duplication to the minimum needed for the story, and not do the whole scene.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
docholladay

@Grant

Yep, there are plenty of ways it ca be done, but after the 2nd time it does get a bit much, after the 20th I generally just bail out of the story unless the rest of it is really great.


That is why I said it has to be a different person than the MC. It changes the point of view involved in the recap. It can be something covered in another story or it can be something completely new about the MC. Used sparingly it can work nicely. But like every other technique it has its own risk factors.(good and bad effects)

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

I personally think it works best as a form of gossip. Have someone besides the MC tell about something from the MC's past it can be used to give information about the MC in many different ways.

Especially if it provides new information. Instead of saying "this is what happened to the MC", have them say "Look out for the MC. He's real particular about how you approach things. When he first started, and X Y and Z happened, he got a little crazy, so I'd watch my step if I were you".

Not only does that cast the past events in a new light, but it also highlights an entirely new set of character conflicts.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

If there's something that has to be retold try to keep it to the minimum and tell it in a new way.

It's generally not enough to 'tell it in a new way', instead you need to tell it from a fresh perspective, where someone sees the same event as happening differently than the MC remembers it. They focus on different things, taking different meanings from the proceedings. Try to think of the character telling the story as an outside, who really doesn't know the MC that well, so they're aren't likely to repeat his summary of events.

A handy way of doing this is to have the MC demur, saying something like "it's not important, what's done is done" and then have the other minor characters take the new character aside, and insist why it's a big deal, while injecting a LOT of personality and personality conflicts into the exchange.

Replies:   TMaskedWriter
TMaskedWriter

@Crumbly Writer

I make use of flashbacks a bit, though sometimes a 1-2 paragraph infodump happens as well.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@TMaskedWriter

I make use of flashbacks a bit, though sometimes a 1-2 paragraph infodump happens as well.

A paragraph or two isn't bad. What's really annoying is when it lasts for multiple typewritten pages, or an entire chapter. Parsed out over time, it's easy to process.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

When it goes more than a page. The flashback works best for me as a reader if its a short story about one of the main characters. The short story can be told in many forms. But above all the flashback has to give relevant information about the character which can not be given in any other format. Usually something from their past.

Back to Top