1. Warde
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    Warde Member

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    Why so many trilogies (and so few duo/bilogies)?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Warde, Jul 13, 2012.

    I'm in the middle of writing the first book in what I had always imagined would be a trilogy. Now I'm starting to think that the trilogy idea may just have been a default. I mean, series of books come in threes, right? That is, unless they're really going for broke and wind up with 6+ instalments...

    This got me thinking, is there any plot/flow-of-the-story related reason for this tendency towards trilogies, or do people just like the number three?? Or, perhaps, three is just where writers end up when they originally plan on writing one book and it just, uh, expands :rolleyes:. Thoughts?

    Similarly, is a duology (bilogy??) some sort of story format faux pas? Why are there so few two book series out there?? Are we all just stuck in the rut of tradition?
     
  2. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Probably a two-book series seems too short, but a four-book series is too long :rolleyes: So if you want a series but not a mega long one, then 3 is a good number. And probably also because it fits the whole "beginning, middle, and end" structure - 3 parts into 3 books - any more or any less would make structuring it more complicated.

    I just finished my first complete draft (eg. 2nd draft after my first complete rewrite) and I know there can be a sequel, and already I'm thinking, well if I'm gonna have a sequel then I might as well have a trilogy :D 2 just seems too short, but anymore than 3 seems too long when your original plan was actually to write just one book.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It could be due to the publishing business -- if a book is successful enough for readers to want an encore, publishers probably figure they can sell a third one as well. If the author is successful in those three, however, maybe they feel they don't have more to say about those characters and are then able to publish a different book, because now this author has a track record and is somewhat established.

    Just a guess.
     
  4. cuddles
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    cuddles New Member

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    Useless but humorous response--George Lucas got his hooks in the publishing industry.
     
  5. Warde
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    Warde Member

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    Hmm, yes. I guess three books does open up the possibility of making substantially more money than two. Thankfully, I'm a long way away from even considering taking this project to a publisher so I'll just see where this goes. At present, it just really feels like a two book plot. But then, as Mckk pointed out, such things have a tendency to grow. Maybe I'll figure out the allure of trilogies as I get closer to the end of this...
     
  6. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Tamora Pierce had a good two-part series, "Trickster's Choice" and "Trickster's Queen."
     
  7. Frusciante
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    Three is the magic number of plotting. Redemption arcs, betrayal arcs, tragedies, prestiges, romances, etc all fit into a 3-part arc. It's just a fact of stories that a three-part story seems to work. That said, dualities aren't impossible, but you have to rework your theme to make it fit in a 2-sided structure. Which is why editing always amounts to 1, 3 or many, for most people's stories.
     
  8. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Actually there's no real limit to a series. The Kris Longknife books come to mind, Mike Shepherd (aka Mike Muscoe? Not sure of spelling to be honest), has written 6-7 of them. each one of them is a stand alone novel with certain small grains, or larger ones, to connect them but not so much that you HAVE to read them in order to know what's happening. Lee Child's Jack Reacher series comes to mind for that too. The one I'm not so keen on (and I'll get flamed for the opinion), and it's mostly due to lazy writing right now, is the Honor Harrington series. When a writer has to be a full THIRD of each novel recapping what happened in the previous one, that, to me, is plain lazy writing. There enough ways to tie things together without resorting to that.

    So it's totally up to you. My series I'm working on will be more then three books, because I've got one really big overall arc that's in the background while each novel is a stand alone and deals with a different story or social issue I choose to write about at the time. But they're all linked by common characters and the large arc.
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Actually there's no real limit to a series. The Kris Longknife books come to mind, Mike Shepherd (aka Mike Muscoe? Not sure of spelling to be honest), has written 6-7 of them. each one of them is a stand alone novel with certain small grains, or larger ones, to connect them but not so much that you HAVE to read them in order to know what's happening. Lee Child's Jack Reacher series comes to mind for that too. The one I'm not so keen on (and I'll get flamed for the opinion), and it's mostly due to lazy writing right now, is the Honor Harrington series. When a writer has to be a full THIRD of each novel recapping what happened in the previous one, that, to me, is plain lazy writing. There enough ways to tie things together without resorting to that.

    So it's totally up to you. My series I'm working on will be more then three books, because I've got one really big overall arc that's in the background while each novel is a stand alone and deals with a different story or social issue I choose to write about at the time. But they're all linked by common characters and the large arc.
     
  10. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    You're writing, that means you're a writer. As a writer, you hope to be paid for your work. That means you hope to one day be a professional. Therefore, as a hopeful professional writer, there's something you should know.

    Have you ever heard of the Three Act Play? If you're a writer, you have. It's the most simple structure in writing. It's intuitive and easy to remember.

    Beginning

    Middle

    End

    There. That's the Three Act Play. Of course, there are sub-parts of that. But, that's the gist of it. Now, why so many trilogies? That's a question with two answers. For one, it's an easy and intuitive way for a writer to separate out a long story arc, providing they can provide something interesting in the term of goal/conflict/realization for each book. Nobody likes reading a book that not only doesn't have a good ending, but has no ending and leaves a cliffhanger, instead. Readers hate clifhangers. They're left feeling cheated. So, any trilogy, quadrology, quintuplet, decacology or whatever is going to have a sensible beggining, middle and end contained within each book that builds on the general story, ending with the expected culmination of the main plot at the end of the series.

    So, now you have this three act structure in the mind of a writer. The publisher also has it in mind. They have costs. They have shelf-space and marketing concerns. When the writer shows up with a 200,000+ word "book", the editor is going to balk. They'll also know that it is not likely for the book to sell well if it is larger than the vehicle that would be used to transport it from the store. Plus, the bigger the book, the more expensive the publishing costs. "War & Peace" is printed because it sells good, not because publishers of reprints are altruistic. Today, War & Peace, if offered for first-run, would probably be broken up into a trilogy by publishing demands. If your book is larger than normal, it makes it harder to sell to the publisher unless it's also much better than normal.

    Readers also understand the Three Act Play fairly intuitively. When they see that a novel is part of a trilogy, they can feel good about saying to themselves "Oh, I see what you did there." There's some implied quality, as well. To the reader, if there are three books, then it must be a great story, right! After all, there's three of them! Well, in reality, books one and two might be worth reading and book three might be just tacked on, hoping to benefit from previous positive experiences... But, the reader who likes the book will surely want to buy the sequels.

    What should you consider when thinking about your own series of books? Glad you asked!

    For one, a series of books will be more likely to be published than a single book. That has a great deal more to do with the quality of the submissions than marketing. IOW, there are more hacks churning out singletons than qualified writers churning out trilogies. Plus, it doesn't hurt that if the publisher signs you, they'll sign you for a three book exclusive where the marketing will be able to build off of each book. If the editor knows that you have two followups to a book you're submitting, you might have an edge.

    Does a series format work for you? In other words, don't write for the series, tailor the format appropriately for the novel. If your novel needs to be a series, then fine. But, does it really? Is it worth all that? If you can always answer yes, then go ahead. If you can't, you may want to reduce it to one book and see how that reads. Chop the plot up, discard parts and move the rest around and see if that's better.

    A note on the number "Three."

    Yes.

    Three is a mystical number that holds a lot of meaning. We attribute "completion" to "three" and "discord" to "two." Ring a bell twice.. isn't there an impulse to ring it one more time? Knock on a door twice, don't you want to knock one more time? Three is a special number and you will find a whole host of things that are organized in triplicate. Beginning, Middle, End, Good, Better, Best, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, etc... You don't think that's all by pure chance, do you? It isn't. It's part of the way we think and structure our observation of reality.
     

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