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In the context of writing a fiction novel, how to make sure that readers remember several of the incidents or events or even characters that were described in earlier chapters, when the same gets referenced in the much later part?

I have also experienced this myself as a reader, especially in mystery novels where a minute detail or character described earlier ends up as a dramatic, concluding climax later. Reader gets a sense of being lost as they happen to forget such things either because they think that description or character in picture, was just a setting buildup or was not too necessary to be remembered throughout.

This is completely opposite to writing a technical or legal paper where paras, reference numbers or bullets easily refer the exact thing that is being referenced. I can't imagine doing so in a novel, story or non-technical writing.

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You don't have to rely solely on your readers memory - you can rely on your characters memory.

Just have your characters or narrator repeat the most important parts and show how the former little, seemingly irrelevant, incident relates to the current dramatic scene. Your characters won't just accept that this detail suddenly is so important and think nothing about it. They will wonder how they could overlook it, or talk about how such a small thing had such a big impact or be angry because they or someone else didn't realize the importance of this small thing.

They shouldn't dwell too long on it, but they can certainly repeat the most important things in their own words and with their own conclusions. This way your readers will remember it while still gaining new insight into the ways your characters think, which makes it feel less like you are repeating something and more like you are developing the final important part of your story arc.

Some readers will forget some little things, but as long as they remember the most important things and have a rough grasp of the overall story everything is fine. It's not like your readers have to take a test later and remember everything perfectly.

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  • Interesting take and it completely relates with me as a reader also :) Thanks – Karan Desai Jul 11 '18 at 10:10

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