Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Writing 101: The Rules of a Trilogy

There are book series, and then there are trilogies. The three stories that make up a trilogy are a series, but they have to be much more than that. If you write your own, are you going to follow the rules of a trilogy?

It Comes in Threes

There are many great book and movie trilogies out there. “Star Wars,” which is both, is a huge fan favorite. I’ll hold up “Back to the Future” as an example of a perfect trilogy any day. But if you really want to know the rules, there’s a movie trilogy you can watch to discover most of them: “Scream.” When it comes to writing your trilogy as a series of three books, the greatest trilogies ever told can help guide you through the specific rules that are now considered to be a requirement.

  • The first book: Even a planned trilogy may not be a hit with fans. This is why the first book of many trilogies serves two purposes. First, it sets up the action that will take place in the second book. Second, it can serve as a stand-alone story if needed.
  • The second book: When it comes to the second book of a trilogy, there’s a lot that needs to be accomplished. Usually, some previously unknown information is revealed (“Scream”). The action, the violence and the romance all have to be bigger and better than they were in the first book. And, most importantly of all, the story has to end on a huge cliffhanger.
  • The third book: When the trilogy gets to the third book, the story is over. All loose ends must be tied up and the story must resolve itself. Usually, something from the first book will make an appearance here to finalize the story once and for all.

The rules of a trilogy seem simple, but actually writing a three-book series that maintains consistent excitement and holds interest throughout is a tricky business. It can be restrictive and difficult to write within an established framework of any kind. Make the rules work for you and with the story you’re going to tell, and maybe yours will become one of the great trilogies.

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