Monday, July 1, 2013

Too Much Recapping

I just gave up on a novel because of the excessive recapping. I wanted to yell at the author "I get it!"

It was a multiple POV fantasy with a typical plot. The Hero fell in love along the way to gathering his Band of Stalwarts to defeat the Big Bad. The first book was a bit obvious, on-the-nose and predictable. But it was both a debut novel and the first of a series. I gave the author lots of leeway and plunged into book 2. I was hoping for improvement.

The second book is still very on-the-nose. People tell each other things they should already know. The characters escape a smidge too easily from their troubles and stumble into a haven of safety and fresh baked bread. Repeat...repeat. But what bogged it all down for me was the recapping through internal dialogue.

First the Hero thinks about all the things they've come through. He's worried about his friends and if The Girl loves him. Then we go to The Girl. She thinks about all the things they've come through. She's worried about her friends and if the Hero loves her.  AHHHGGH. This goes on for pages combing over the same ground from the two perspectives when we already lived through it with them!

Recapping should be for the reader's benefit, not to increase word count. And the events weren't that confusing. Especially since the reader witnessed it. It didn't tell me more about the characters or world or plot. In my writer's group I would have told the author to at least trim heavily if not cut completely.

Some books need regular recapping, mysteries for example. The sleuth will often put together clues during recapping. Pulling a solution, a lead or a revelation out of recapping makes it work much better. It gives the reader the breadcrumbs that the sleuth is following. Or if many chapters have passed since we last encountered a character or event, a recap might be needed. But I think they always need a light touch.


  1. Totally agree. Elizabeth George considers her novel a success when the reader has to reread it to confirm the clues put in there earlier substantiate the ending. Too many expect easy results.(In lots of things)

  2. Like you, I also hate re-reading the same incident twice (and in some novels thrice). I write mysteries so I always worry about repeating because the sleuth has to think through the clues like you said. But I always try to add something to the internal monologue to move the plot forward.

  3. I think the key might be to limiting the POV to the incident so that the missing pieces can be added to the recounting. Then I don't object to rehashing to add bits and link them.