Okay, so last week we started our exploration of writing a trilogy. I'm back today to talk about the second part of the trilogy: Book Two.
I think Book Two is the hardest. Let's just get that out in the open up front. The author has the challenge of living up to Book One, and the characters aren't new. The world isn't new. The problems aren't new.
We got to see all of those things in the first book, so Book Two usually suffers from Little Sister Syndrome. In fact, in my exploration of trilogies, I read many (MANY) a second book that I felt was exactly like the first. I felt like I'd read the same book twice.
So that's a huge challenge we need to overcome in Book Two. I think there are some "easy" ways to do this. You can write a companion novel. A spin-off. Narrate from a different character's POV. Things like that. But no matter what, Book Two is part of the trilogy, and needs to contribute to the overall story/plot arc of the series.
So what do we need to do in Book Two?
To me, Book Two is the Now We Know What's Wrong With Our World, and This is What We're Going to do to Fix It book.
Applying this to the character, it's the I Know What's Wrong With Myself, and I'm Going to Try to Change novel.
This follows nicely with Book One, which was the This is What's Wrong With My World/Character.
That's the next step in the trilogy. Now that the MC knows, what are they going to do to fix/change things? That's the essence of Book Two.
Of course, Book Two needs it's own plot too. It's own set of problems. It's own main conflict. And this is often where authors fall into the trap of writing another Book One.
So don't do that. Instead, think of these things as you're devising the plot for Book Two. Think of Book Two as the second part of the trilogy. Think of it's role in advancing the series enough to get to Book Three--which is The War. If you don't advance us far enough, Book Three will suffer. If you try to rewrite Book One, Book Two suffers.
So here's how to make Book Two do exactly what it needs to do:
1. Focus on the end. You're driving this crazy train, and you have a specific destination: Book Three. If you know where you need to be for The War to begin, you know what needs to be accomplished in Book Two. And knowing that is more than half the battle.
2. Stretch the main character. They overcame some things to solve the main conflict in Book One. But they still have Things That Need Fixing, and we can continue to stretch and grow them in the plot of Book Two. During this stretching, make sure that more things get fixed.
3. Get to the heart of the overall main conflict. Think of Book Two as the middle act in the three-act trilogy. Act Two--according to Blake Snyder and his beats--takes up half the book. Act One (Book One) is just the beginning. Act Three (Book Three) is just how it ends. But Book Two is the entire middle.
Which might be another reason it's so hard to write.
But in Act Two (Book Two), there are several things to address that will help you find the heart of the series and move toward Book Three.
The Series Midpoint: This is a defining moment for the series. It's when consequences are suddenly made clear for the series. And it happens in Book Two--usually about halfway through. It's where the main character knows exactly what they're up against, and even how far the antagonist will go to achieve their diabolical ends.
I like to think of Harry Potter. Book 4 this time--which is the midpoint of the HP series. Book 4 is full of awesomeness. The Tri-Wizard Cup. But during all this, we realize how far Voldemort will go to achieve his desires. He will kill and kidnap. He will send in spies. He will do whatever it takes.
And Harry realizes it too, right there in the graveyard after watching Cedric die, and being transported from the maze with the portkey.
This leads us to two more important things that are important to the series that happen in Book Two.
The All is Lost Moment, and the Dark Night of the Soul.
The main character should experience a profound All is Lost moment for the series. To me, this is when Harry's blood no longer is a protection to him. It's exactly when Voldemort presses his finger to Harry's scar.
The Dark Night of the Soul is the darkness before the dawn. We can usually disguise the Dark Night of the Soul as the climax of Book Two. It's all wrapped up like this:
All is Lost moment for the series
Climax of Book Two
Dark Night of the Soul period for the series
This is where the main character--though they may have just overcome the main conflict in this story--realizes that they have a heckuva long way to go to beat the bad guys. It's where they have no solutions to orchestrate that defeat, and they're clinging to their safe and trusted places for refuge until the sun rises.
This is usually how Book Two ends. There's a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but we can't see it yet--and neither can they.
So there you go! Long-winded, but a bit of a map for how to navigate the landmines of Book Two in a trilogy.
What do you think? Read some Book Two's that are just a repeat of Book One? Read some great ones? What's essential material for Book Two?