Tackle A Trilogy And Triple Your Profits

Tackle A Trilogy And Triple Your Profits

Are you a​ writer with big ideas? Are you always imagining epics, sweeping stories, great tales of​ human struggle and sacrifice, interlaced with personal stories of​ love, sadness and triumph? if​ so, you ought to​ consider turning your book or​ story idea into a​ trilogy.

Why a​ trilogy? Believe it​ or​ not, there are deep psychological reasons that we do things in​ threes. The holy trinity is​ the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Triple Goddess is​ Maiden, Mother, Crone, detailing the feminine journey through life. How many times have you heard the phrase "third time lucky", or​ given someone "three guesses" or​ "three chances"? And of​ course in​ baseball it's "three strikes and you're out!"

You will have no doubt heard of​ the traditional "three act play". Almost all big Hollywood screenplays are based on this structure and it's certainly a​ tried and true form of​ storytelling that captures viewers and keeps them going back to​ the cinema in​ droves. And the world of​ fantasy writing is​ packed with trilogies: The Lord of​ the Rings, The Chronicles of​ Thomas Covenant (that's two trilogies in​ fact), and any story by Sara Douglass, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan or​ pretty much any fantasy writer in​ the world today is​ told across at​ least one, if​ not more, trilogies.

Add to​ that the success of​ such popular movie franchises as​ Star Wars, Pirates of​ The Carribean and the Bourne movies, and you will see that a​ well planned and executed trilogy is​ a​ one way ticket to​ success.

So how do you do it? Do you just take an​ idea and spin it​ out over three stories? or​ do you just come up with a​ great character and three great premises and you're home and hosed?

Neither actually!

The success of​ the trilogy is​ based on the traditional three act play, where book or​ movie one is​ act one, book or​ movie two is​ act two, and book or​ movie three is​ act three. The only ingredients you need are one great big story running behind three stories compelling enough to​ carry a​ movie or​ book on their own, and you've got the basic ingredients you need to​ succeed.

So if​ you are the type of​ writer who thinks big, if​ your scope is​ broad and your plots complex and intertwined, and your characters are people on a​ life's journey, then trying to​ squash that all into one book may be too many chocolate chips in​ the cookie. Giving yourself the room to​ think, plan and write a​ larger journey over three books will make each one a​ better book in​ its own right, and if​ you do get it​ right, you've got a​ guaranteed audience for books two and three. And publishers love that!

The most important element to​ grasp as​ you embark on the trilogy adventure is​ that you are dealing with a​ multilayered project. Unlike the acts of​ a​ play, the individual stories in​ a​ trilogy need to​ stand up on their own, in​ addition to​ playing a​ part in​ a​ larger drama.

So let's take a​ look at​ how you can go about turning your dreams of​ epic tales into the reality of​ a​ trilogy.

How to​ Build Your Trilogy

1. Decide on your over-arcing or​ larger story.

This is​ definitely the most important first step by far. Without it​ you don't have any story, let alone a​ trilogy.

Some examples of​ great larger stories are:

a) a​ leper passes out on the floor of​ his lounge room and wakes to​ find himself in​ a​ strange land. There, instead of​ being treated as​ an​ outcast, he is​ considered a​ savior and the question is​ asked, will Thomas Covenant accept his destiny and save The Land? The larger story: will Lord Foul prevail or​ will Covenant save The Land?

b) a​ farm boy dreams of​ becoming a​ fighter pilot. He meets a​ Jedi Knight and trains in​ the ancient art. The question is​ asked, will Luke Skywalker become a​ Jedi, save the Rebels and bring freedom to​ the Galaxy, or​ will he turn to​ the Dark Side like his father? The larger story: who will prevail, light or​ dark, good or​ evil, The Rebels or​ The Empire?

c) a​ man is​ found floating off the coast of​ Marseilles. He has no idea who he is. as​ he attempts to​ find out, will he learn his true identity, or​ will Jason Bourne wish he'd never asked? The larger story: it​ is​ one man against the world, as​ Jason Bourne challenges the might of​ the CIA, and who will prevail?

These are just a​ few examples of​ the initial questions asked, the initial journeys laid out before the heroes and the ultimate possibilities open to​ the creator of​ a​ great trilogy. Nail your larger story, and backdrop it​ against anything from war to​ a​ love story and you'll have a​ great basis to​ work from.

2. Each book in​ the trilogy is​ roughly the equivalent to​ an​ act in​ a​ screenplay.

In the three act play, Act One is​ "The Set Up" or​ "Decision to​ Act", Act Two is​ "The Confrontation" or​ "The Action" and Act Three is​ "The Resolution" or​ "The Result of​ The Action".

When you are planning out your larger story (which you will do first) this breakdown will help you form the basis of​ each of​ the books in​ your trilogy. in​ Book One, you will cover the elements of​ the larger story that take that story through the set up phase and onto the threshold of​ another world, or​ some different action. Book Two will follow with the result of​ what was decided in​ Book One, as​ the story moves forward through the crisis/ordeal/midpoint and traditionally ends on a​ dark note. This leaves Book Three open to​ rescue the heroes from the jaws of​ defeat as​ the larger story reaches its climax and all the initial questions are answered. Planning this out in​ the earliest stages will give you very strong guidelines as​ to​ where to​ go with each individual book's plot, structure and characters.

3. Each book must stand alone as​ a​ complete story in​ itself.

This is​ where you need to​ be very aware of​ the layered aspect of​ this process. You have a​ larger story you are telling in​ the style of​ the three act play. Now you need to​ plan, structure and write three stores within that structure that fulfill all the criteria of​ successful books in​ their own right. So take "The Set Up" phase and construct a​ story showing how you would set up your larger story. It's very common here to​ have a​ reluctant hero, who hears the call to​ adventure and refuses. Thomas Covenant is​ a​ good example of​ this. Thus the entire first book can be the process of​ the hero trying to​ escape the call. in​ a​ different scenario, you may have a​ willing hero, like Luke Skywalker or​ Frodo for instance and the first book may be a​ complete hero's journey in​ itself, showing how the hero is​ embracing the quest or​ task, but still leaves the greater part of​ the task to​ be completed.

Possibly the most important thing to​ remember is​ to​ hold information or​ events back as​ long as​ you can. It's tempting when you're writing a​ trilogy to​ put too much in​ up front, but doing that is​ a​ mistake. Give your readers some credit for intelligence and imagination, and don't tell them everything up front. Trilogies are a​ great tool for holding back secrets and springing surprises on your readers to​ keep them guessing. Good examples of​ this are Darth Vader revealing he is​ Luke's father at​ the end of​ the second episode in​ that trilogy, the interesting faux "love story" between Elizabeth and Captain Jack Sparrow in​ the Pirates of​ the Carribean and the scene at​ the end of​ the second Bourne film which is​ repeated right near the climax of​ the third film. You are in​ a​ great position to​ lead your readers wherever you want them to​ go so use it!

4. Your characters must have "legs".

There is​ nothing worse than flat, lifeless characters and there is​ definitely nothing worse than trying to​ hold our attention with these flat and lifeless characters for three whole books. Make sure you do your homework on your characters just as​ you would with any other book you write. Put their flaws and universal needs right there up front for us to​ see, you still need to​ grab your reader's attention from page 1. Don't fall into the trap of​ thinking that because you have three books you have more time and space to​ develop your story and characters. Wrong! if​ anything you are under more pressure to​ hook us straight away, because we're not going to​ keep reading if​ we're not interested, as​ we know that the story doesn't actually finish until the end of​ the third book.

5. Your "golden thread" must run throughout all the three books.

This is​ where the intricate weaving of​ story on story and the skill of​ balancing the separate elements becomes critical. Your golden thread could be a​ war, a​ family saga over generations, a​ love story or​ a​ ring quest, but regardless of​ what it​ is, remember that THIS is​ THE STORY YOU ARE ULTIMATELY TELLING. Star Wars is​ ultimately about the battle between the Rebels and the Empire, the Bourne movies are the story of​ one man against the CIA, the Chronicles of​ Thomas Covenant are about a​ leper who becomes a​ savior in​ a​ different world, and The Lord of​ The Rings is​ the war of​ Middle-Earth. While there are countless subplots, character journeys, love stories and red herrings in​ all these tales, they all still have their own individual "golden threads" and ultimately the telling of​ the story is​ to​ serve this golden thread.

If you are prone to​ larger ideas, give this system a​ go. it​ may be just the breakthrough you need to​ get yourself on the publisher's lists.

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