I shared this article on an efriend’s blog during the launch of my latest prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature. Here it is in case you missed it:
I didn’t start out writing a trilogy. It was supposed to be a story and then it got long, longer, and finally ended up enough for three books. Of course, a trilogy isn’t just a story broken into thirds:
A trilogy is a set of three stories that are connected and can be seen either as a single work or as three individual works. … Most involve the same characters or setting
Why is my series structured as multiple trilogies
My series is called Man vs. Nature (the link takes you to my author page with all the books listed). It examines seminal times in man’s evolution to explore what went right/wrong and how events moved mankind forward in our development to ‘modern man’. I had intended this to be one book for each event but soon found that was sorely inadequate. There just wasn’t enough time to fully develop the ideas so readers would understand that amazing time in his predecessor’s evolution while staying true to fiction characteristics like plot development, characters, and setting. Three books seems to work much better.
I have three trilogies so far:
Dawn of Humanity–the birth of man
Book 1 and 2 are published; Book 3 planned for early next year
Crossroads–the story of the most resilient species of our genus ever (Homo erectus)
This trilogy is completed but left the door open for a time man survived some of the coldest climes this planet has ever experienced
The Warrior Way–when humans almost became extinct
In the planning stages
Why Write a trilogy
Writers must choose what format their story will take. You can write a stand-alone book, a duology/trilogy (or more), a series, or something else I’m not familiar with. One of the most popular formats is the trilogy. Here’s why:
- Readers get to stay with favorite characters while still knowing there’s not a never-ending story.
- Many readers like the long story idea of trilogies.
- The scope of a trilogy offers writers a liberating sense of space and freedom.
- Many people who read one book in a trilogy will then read the rest, which is great for sales!
Tricks for writing trilogies
Here are a few tips for writing trilogies. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them but they are well-accepted tips for writing this format:
- Break the story into three acts.
- Include the same characters, overall theme in each.
- Each book should satisfy readers on its own, be able to stand alone should the reader not want to read the others.
- Book 2 and 3 should briefly summarize events in Book 1/Book 2 so readers understand what happened if they didn’t read them.
- Leave some unanswered questions in Book 1 and 2 but not too many. And, resolve some of those posited in Book 1 and 2 in later books.
- Some writers write all three at once and then publish all at once or with sequential roll-outs. Others write them one at a time. There doesn’t seem to be any right or wrong.
- This is well-suited to genres with longer books like epic fantasy.
- Write Book 1 at your leisure but write Book 2 and 3 on a tight schedule. Readers don’t want to wait forever for the rest of the story.
- Book 3 ends the story with this caveat: Don’t worry if it doesn’t. Write another. It just means you no longer have a trilogy. Now you have a series.
- There is no set way to structure a trilogy. You can make it one long story with stopping points. It can be an extended anthology where each book is only loosely related to the others. It may be character- or plot-driven.
Most popular trilogies
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- The African Trilogy by Chinua Achebe
- The Night Trilogy by Elie Wiesel
- The House of Earth by Pearl S. Buck
- The Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King
- The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
- Unraveling the Veil by D. Wallace Peach
- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
- Innerscape by A.C. Flory
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.