Monday, April 11, 2016

The Structure of a Fantasy Trilogy | A Different Kind of "Second Book Syndrome"

So, lately I've been thinking a lot. Mostly on why it's so hard for me to finish trilogies, especially fantasy ones. I used to think I was super good about finishing things, but then I realized...
No, seriously. The amount of series I started, loved, and then just left it there is humongous. And it's not because I don't want to read what happens next. So... why does it happen? Well, because I like to psych things out, I think I realized at least a partial reason for it.

I am super afraid of reading second books... because of the structure of a trilogy. 

What do I mean? A fantasy trilogy (when done correctly, anyways, and doesn't just waste the middle book as filler because apparently creating just douolgies is sacrilege or something) has a very definite and frightening structure, that makes me super duper uoper scared to read the second book:
This is the good book. In here, we establish our characters, their motivations, and the general problem they're dealing with. This book would normally end on a hopeful, light note, promising better for our heroes in the future (yeah, right). A great victory, or even just a small one, but enough to make everyone momentarily happy. As well as you, the reader.

This book would typically have more wins than loses throughout, as well.
This is the worst book, as far as I'm concerned. The book that makes me bite my nails and pray to the lord. Because this book normally works at unraveling everything good we've managed to build in book one. And just in case that didn't get you depressed enough, it typically ends on a huge loss. An important fight lost, a kingdom taken, a loved one stolen/killed, our heroes having to --for the moment-- abandon the things they love... this sort of thing. 

It ends bleak and dark and gives you the understanding of what our heroes are going to have to come back from in the final book. The farther you fall, the more glorious the rise or something like this?

This book usually has either a pretty balanced tally of win/lose or more wins than losses, with the losses upping the farther into the plot you go, just to put an extra kick on that already gut wrenching final loss.
THIS is the book I hate. I don't like finishing a book feeling like everything is hopeless and having my main characters despair, even when they're still planing on fighting and I know they'll win at the end. Probably has to do with that end being SO FAR AWAY.

Book three deals with the aftermath of The Loss in book two. Everything is out of balance and the stake constantly rise as our heroes wrestle wins (and get handed losses and setbacks) while they fight for the future of the kingdom/world/family/etc.

Typically, this book will have more loses than wins, so that final battle will feel extra dangerous and momentous.
This book is more bearable to me, 'cause I know at the end of the day they have to win, even if with severe losses. So, like, there is not a whole other book to go through to deal with all these little losses. It will be resolved! This is the whole difference, for me, I guess?

But to get to this book... I need to go through the book that doesn't have that. Gulp.

Have you ever noticed this structure? Are you afraid of going into that second book as well?

(BTW, non-trilogies follow this structure less strictly, but they also tend to have the book before the finale end horribly. However, I find that it's less difficult for me to deal because it spaced more evenly).

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