Okay, so I've written and almost published a trilogy now. I never thought I'd do that. To me, Possession was a stand-alone, and I had no idea how to write a sequel. So I didn't. I wrote a companion novel instead. *wink*
But really, I wrote a trilogy. And it was hard. And as I was preparing to write the third book, I read a bunch of trilogies to kind of get an idea of the basic formula.
Because I believe everything has a formula. I found as I was reading that trilogies are no different. So for the next few weeks, I'm going to be talking about writing a trilogy, and maybe if you're writing one or thinking of writing one, this will be useful for you.
Book One: This is the first act. It's the first third of your overall trilogy, and should be thought of as such.
In Book One, all the important characters are introduced. The main character, obviously. But they're joined by secondary characters, as well as the villain(s), and they should all have page-time in the first novel, even if they're not all on-page.
The Six Things That Need Fixing are established. This is a Save the Cat term, so I'm not taking credit. In fact, all of this is me thinking through the Save the Cat beats on a more global scale. But the Six Things That Need Fixing are typically weaknesses in the main character that they need to work through and overcome to solve the main conflict in the story.
These Things are the things that in the end, if the MC doesn't overcome, they won't prevail over the villain. They're also the Things that if the MC does overcome, they'll save the day in the eleventh hour.
These Things can be powerful indeed. And you establish them for the entire trilogy in Book One.
The catalyst to the main, over-arching conflict happens, and quite often, this is masked as the main conflict of Book One. In fact, the main conflict of Book One is typically just the tip of the iceberg of the conflict for the entire trilogy.
Sure, the MC solves the conflict. All is saved for this story at the end. But usually they realize how much farther they still have to go at some point at the end of Book One. We get a little taste of what's truly at stake, and just how far the villain is willing to go to achieve their goal. Book Two will expose more of this, but we'll save that for next week.
The debate whether the hero is going to be real or a fake is also explored. Usually, in Book One, the hero has to decide whether they're going to throw themselves into the story and do what they can. This is a type of what the entire trilogy is about.
You'll need to test and try your MC in Book One, take them to the brink of what they can do. This is how you make them choose to be a real hero or a fake hero. You'll do the same in your trilogy. We drag it out in Book One a little bit, by giving them moments of desperation, and more Things That Need Fixing, and not allowing them to overcome all their weaknesses in one story.
These are the same things that you do in the first act of your book too, but you apply them on a global level to the series.
Basically, I think of Book One as: Introduction to What's Wrong With This World. And What My Main Character Could be Made Of.
Next week, we'll explore Book Two, it's role in the trilogy, and how to think about the book as a whole.
What would you add to this? Have you penned a trilogy? Planning to write one?