A Guide to Planning and Writing a Trilogy
From Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games to Star Wars and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there are plenty of famous trilogies that have carved a special space for themselves in modern literature. Many trilogies have also been converted into feature-length films and enjoy massive fanbases that have kept the legacy of the books alive. How do you write a great trilogy like that, though? As with all writing endeavors, it requires a great deal of thought and planning. Read on as we discuss how you can plan and write a trilogy that brings your vision to life.
Figure Out the Main Storyline
Every trilogy has an overarching storyline that is split across three novels. In Lord of the Rings, we saw a fellowship of hobbits, men, dwarfs, and elves that came together to destroy the ring by throwing it into the Crack of Doom. A great storyline tackles various themes and introduces numerous plot points along the way. All of these must connect to the main storyline and enrichen it. Typically, you can break your main storyline into six parts. These are:
- The hook – This is the setup where you introduce the characters and let the reader know what the story is about.
- The first plot point – This serves as the defining moment of the first book and offers a doorway into the plot you will explore in the second book.
- The midpoint – This is when you are halfway into the second book. There’s usually a turning point in the story here that brings about a significant shift in the plot and the protagonist’s journey.
- The second plot point – This plot point takes place at the end of the second book. Like with the first plot point, it nudges the reader into the plot of the final book.
- Climax – This is self-explanatory. It’s the climax of your trilogy. For instance, in the Lord of The Rings, the climax takes place at Mount Doom where the protagonist, Frodo, debates whether he should keep the ring or destroy it.
- Resolution – This is when all the elements in your storyline reach a conclusion.
Build Your Characters and Plan Their Journey
A strong protagonist is essential for a successful trilogy. You want to create a series of complex and interesting characters here that get the readers invested. For instance, Star Wars has several beloved characters that have gone down in history. People still reference them and reminisce the development they underwent. This brings us to our second point – the character’s journey.
The character’s journey is just as important as the main storyline you have planned. Readers want to know who these people are and where they’ll wind up. You want to write characters that are constantly evolving and growing. When you’re planning a trilogy, we suggest making notes focusing on a compelling character journey that keeps your readers hooked.
You can use the approach we discussed for the main storyline for your overarching character arcs too. Besides being easy and useful, you can also use it to integrate your character development into the main storyline and make the development organic. This approach can also increase reader interest in the main plot of the trilogy.
Besides this, you can also introduce new characters to retain reader interest. However, make sure that you don’t have too many character arcs in place. Giving all these arcs a satisfying conclusion can be a challenge so don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Add Different Themes to the Trilogy
Like with other forms of writing, trilogies are a great way to explore symbolism. You can add themes inspired by real-life and give your readers something to reflect on. For instance, one of the central themes that inspired Star Wars is moral guidance that transcends organized religion. The trilogy also focuses on how giving too much power to one person can lead to destruction and chaos.
The Hunger Games also tackles political themes and showcases the horrors of oppression and totalitarianism. Adding powerful themes to your main storyline makes your trilogy more relevant and allows readers to connect to the story in a more profound way.
Control the Pacing
The great thing about writing a trilogy is that you can spread your story out across three different books and flesh out our plot points and character arcs. However, some writers try and do too much in the first book to capture the interest of their readers. This approach can backfire for two reasons.
Firstly, if there’s too much happening in one book, it might be hard to follow, and you might not be able to explore your ideas properly. Secondly, it sets expectations for the other two books, and you’ll have to introduce multiple exciting incidents and plot points. Altogether, this can do more harm than good to your story.
We suggest maintaining a controlled pace that keeps your readers engaged. As mentioned earlier, each book should build up to a major plot point. You can then offer a suitable conclusion and build intrigue among readers about the next book.
Set a Mood for the Books
You also set different moods for each book. For instance, the first book in a trilogy is relatively simple and focuses on world-building. You can introduce your characters to the readers and while there is a major plot point, the tone is usually light.
The second book can be a mixture of light and dark moods, depending on the twists and turns you introduce in the story. Finally, the third book is usually more serious, and you may engage in do-or-die situations. Everything is building up to the main climax here and it can get very intense. This type of approach is also great for keeping your readers hooked until the end.
Wrapping It Up
Writing a trilogy can be difficult, but if you have a good story in mind, it can also be a deeply satisfying process. We suggest choosing a storyline that can be stretched across multiple books and creating compelling characters that can make it even more engaging. You can also add different themes and symbolism that make the events in the book reflective of real-life situations.
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