BookEnds Literary Agency Meet BookEnds, Jr.
BookEnds Literary Agency The Art of the Query Letter
BookEnds Literary Agency Welcome to BookEnds, Elle E. Ire!

Trilogy and Series Writers Beware

The other day, BookEnds agents got into a lively discussion regarding our thoughts on a couple of different YA trilogies. One of the things that a few of us noted was that one trilogy in particular was very difficult to follow. A few of us read the first book when it came out and had to wait a year to read the second. When we finally did we had a hard time following the stories and the characters. Had we read them one right after another that probably wouldn’t have been the case.

I think series writers get in the habit of skillfully introducing the characters and the series with each book. It’s an art. It has to be done in such a way that you don’t lose your dedicated series readers to boredom, but that allows new readers to dive into the story and follow the characters without feeling like they’re missing something.

Trilogies are different though. Trilogies are often designed as one story. Which means that while each book needs to stand alone in some respect, the three books are intrinsically linked in not only characters, but also the main plot (not just a secondary plot like often happens in a series). The problem with that is introducing a reader without impairing your rhythm and pace. This is also a skill, but one I find is more difficult for writers.

When I have the luck of falling in love with a trilogy at the end of its success (like I did with Hunger Games) I have no problem reading the stories. In that case I bought the first two books just as the third was coming out and sat down and read them back-to-back-to-back. Since it was like reading one big book there was no problem following everything that happened. With other successful and popular trilogies I got in earlier and waiting for the next book was hard. Once I got it in my hands I was disappointed (and in some cases turned off enough not to buy the third book).

A year is a long time. I don’t and won’t remember all of your characters names or who they are and I need a bit of a reminder of the plot. I mean, we’re talking YA here so maybe I’m just old and the younger readers can do what I can’t (remember anything), but I kind of doubt it.

Category: Blog

Tags:

11 comments

  1. Totally agree! I have an on-going series and my Beta’s are FABULOUS!! Though I try and give brief reminders of an event that may be brought up that happened in another of the books, sometimes, its just not clear enough. Not to be enjoyable of get the important reason I’m bringing the event up in the first place.

    My Beta’s are like “no girl that was big… you need more!”

    Back to checking the blog now that life (and hurricanes) have settled.

  2. Oh, oh, oh, great post! It got me started on a subject I’ve been frowning on for a while now. Truth is, I’m no fan of series, trilogies, septalogies or any kind of neverending stories that only profit from the first book’s success, and generate money at the expense of authentic reader enjoyment. The only series I ever did was of two (short!) books. Sure, there are authors whose stories are bigger than just one book, but I prefer authors capable of moving on and creating something new, taking things to a new level. My writing mantra is easy – if it doesn’t grip me and keep me interested, it sure won’t anyone else. At a certain point it must get boring for the writer too, and I think that’s why many series/trilogies/septalogies/neverending stories end up flopping at one point. What do you guys think? You think series still have a future?

    1. I do, but yet in many ways I agree with you. Watch for a blog post on this in the future. You’ve inspired me. Thanks!

  3. I’ve read an author (maybe David Eddings?) who had prologues at the start of his books so new readers could get up to speed (or for those of us that had forgotten). Is that accepted these days? It makes sense to me and would seem a perfect example of when to use a prologue.

    1. If it’s done well. Prologues can be tricky business for authors too since it’s easy to use them as a crutch or information dump.

  4. Truth – it is definitely a skill to artfully remind a reader not only of who is who in that 2nd/3rd book, but what is going on. I recently finished reading the Lunar Chronicles series (which, as you mentioned, is a little different), but I started with the 2nd book since I had read the first, Cinder probably about a year prior and naturally, there was a lot I’d forgotten. I think Meyer did a pretty good job though of using the whole 2nd book to weave back in details… but the trick is in how much and how soon. Definitely an issue for authors to consider.

  5. I’ve just finished the Night School series and although it is 5 books it is still one story that follows one after the other. I read them back to back and it worked well, 2 days later I still can’t get the school out of my head despite a lot of small discrepancies.
    Having said that if you jumped in part way through the series or had to wait a year for the next book I think you would have problems remembering who was who and what was happening.

    It is certainly something to think about when you’re planning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *