It’s okay to remind the reader of things now and then. I don’t know about you, but while reading a book I often find myself wondering: Now, who is this person again? Why is this piece of information important? I don’t know if my retention is lacking or if I’m just too scattered these days while trying to read an entire book, but I’m always happy when an author will offer a quick and gentle reminder of something, important or incidental, saving me from having to flip back to where I thought the original mention was.
As a journalist, though, I’m not really inclined to repeat myself. It’s not part of what I do. I say it once, and if you missed it, oh well. And I’ve realized as I do my final (fingers crossed!) edit of Baby Grand that the journalist in me has come to expect a lot from readers. I may mention something in passing in Chapter 2 and then expect readers to remember what I’m referring to when I bring it back up on page 200. So I’ve been throwing in some reminders myself. Not all books require a flowchart or family tree, as provided by books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Red Queen, but I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing wrong with a little repetition — or, as I like to think of it, reinforcement. Of course, you don’t say it again as if you’re saying it for the first time — your readers will think you have Alzheimer’s. But you can validate that inkling readers have of “I know I’ve read something about this before” so that they can have piece of mind that they are totally in the know as they go forward.
Finding the time to read is hard enough. I figure as a novelist if I can make the process a little easier it’s the least I can do.