Hello, Don’tRead Faithful!
Not long ago I posted an impassioned and mildly insightful rant about how trilogies have unwittingly become a pet peeve for me. I have some extra insight into the trilogy thing, and if you’re thinking of breaking your book, I have a few rules of thumb to help you to decide when it’s OK to break up your story and into how many books.
First, if you are asking yourself the question, ‘Should I break up my story into multiple books?’ you can determine thusly-
I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH; NO. A thousand times no AND you must be stupid, arrogant, or both if you even for one instant entertain the idea of “breaking” your story.
Because that’s exactly what it will do.
Here’s the thing about stories—they all have a beginning, middle, and end. Break them into parts and what do you get? Chunks. Manuscripts. Bits of narrative flotsam, which may be entertaining, but are nonetheless incomplete. And it may be trendy to make it into a ‘three-is-a-magic-number’ thing, but it can actually detract from the narrative.
Break It Down
“So when is it okay to have trilogies, or multi-part works?” you ask. A fair question, and there ARE times when dividing your work into parts is necessary. Here are some scenarios in which it will not harm your story (much).
• Your work contains multiple smaller stories (beginning, middle, and end [I stress, END]) within a larger, whole Narrative. You can then divide the work into as many books as you have COMPLETE stories.
• You are under pressure from your publisher because your book is physically too large to be printed. This is the only time it is appropriate to BREAK your story into pieces, but it should not be as much an issue nowadays as ebooks have near limitless storage capability.
• You really like the idea of trilogies and are willing to sell each third of your story at a 66% discounted rate.
Now it is also important you have only as many books in your series as you have COMPLETE (beginning, middle, end) stories. Again, they can be part of a larger narrative, but if you want a series, you need to complete the story. Otherwise fans (like me) will turn on you or not buy your crappy books/movies/videogames.
On that note I’d like to just take this moment to say,
He rose rapidly to #1 on my trilogy shit list for his consummate first third of a bowel movement, The Hobbit earlier this year. This is a perfect case in point. How many stories are there in the Hobbit? One. So, class—how many movies should it be?
If you said one, you’re correct!
If you said three, you’re Peter Jackson and you clearly care more about money than art, cinema, literature, or most damning of all, your own fans.
But he’s not the only profitable and famous offender.
Let’s explore some other of history’s popular but broken stories:
Star Wars: I know I listed it as among my favorite, but it should have been a duology—ESB and RotJ have only one beginning and ending between them.
Pirates of The Caribbean: Four Movies, Three stories.
I Bring The Fire: This one had a really blatant cliffhanger in the last part of the first book. And that’s really bad—most other offenders give you one full length story at least.
A Song of Ice and Fire is hit and miss; some books are divided strangely, but I think it may have been for the reason of preventing readers from developing lower back pain from heavy lifting (his books are already huge).
And I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard Twilight is another famous culprit.
If you want to see somebody who’s done it right, check Harry Potter. Seven complete, standalone stories, each with a beginning, middle, and end, each with their own book (though let’s just pretend the movies never happened).
Narnia’s a nother good one.
I’m still reading Mistborn, a four part series, and judging by the size of the print version, it may have been split up for convenience BUT the first three ebooks are sold together as a complete book for about the price of a single hardcover. Awesome.
Yeah, trilogies are cool–very vogue and have been for a long time–but they’re not always necessary. So tell me what you think. Am I way off base? Are there some offenders I forgot about? Who else gets their multi-part story right?
Leave a comment and let me know!