4.30.2013

Is it still déjà vu if you really have seen this before?

Been there. Read that.
Series writers have a tough choice to make when it comes to the beginnings the rest of the entries in the series. I've seen three different approaches:
  1. Include a short synopsis at the beginning of each entry to remind readers what the previous books were about and to catch up new readers who had the misfortune of picking up anything except the first volume. 
  2. Pick up exactly where the last volume left off and charge ahead, catching up and reminders be damned.
  3. Pick up exactly where the last volume left off and drop of reminders in the dialog or exposition.
All of these options have their pluses and minuses. If you go with options one or three, you'll bore readers that do remember what happened before. But if it's been a long time since the last entry in the series or if you have a reader who didn't read the previous entries, option two won't work because they'll be totally lost.

What I hadn't seen before today was an author including text from a previous entry almost word for word in a sequel. I have no idea if this was an editor error or what, but as I started to read Joseph Nassise's King of the Dead, I experienced something a little stronger than déjà vu. Here's what I read:
If it was important to someone for some reason, an object would soak up whatever emotions the living attached to it. A child's teddy bear might glow with the pure white light of unconditional love, while the hairbrush used to brush a woman's long glossy hair might reflect the scarlet eroticism felt by her husband as he wielded it night after night over twenty years of marriage. The more important the object to its owner, the brighter the glow. (40-41*)
Here's a nearly identical passage from the first book in the series, Eyes to See:
Objects can gather and hold emotional residue. A child's teddy bear might glow with the pure white light of unconditional love, while the hairbrush used to brush a woman's long, glossy hair might reflect the scarlet eroticism felt by her husband as he wielded it night after night over twenty years of marriage. Each and every object gives off an aura of some kind and the more important the object is to its owner, the brighter the glow. (49*)
There were other bits and pieces that twigged at my memory. I don't know for sure I would have caught them if I hadn't read Eyes to See about a month ago. But then, these are word for word repetitions. Wow.

A student or professor might call this self plagiarism. I don't know if it was accident or oversight or, shockingly, laziness. It was certainly surprising to me. I really thought I was experiencing déjà vu until I went back and searched through Eyes to See and found that I wasn't going nuts.

At any rate, this is why we need copy editors. They're not just there to make sure that everything's spelled right or that there aren't any glaring grammatical errors. It's so that shit like this doesn't happen. Not to completely go off on another topic, but as the publishing industry has scaled back on editing over the last five years or so, I've seen more and more errors.

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* Page numbers from the Kindle edition of the book. These may not match up with the print page numbers.

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