Monday, April 27, 2015

The Trilogy - to Write or Not to Write by Rajdeep Paulus

So happy to have Rajdeep Paulus back with us on The Alley.

Her newest novel, Soaring Through Stars, is the final installment of her trilogy and has met with wonderful remarks such as "a beautiful whirlwind plot", "heart soaring", "compelling" and "hopeful". One reviewer said it is "a perfect conclusion".

What a wonderful delight then to have Raj with us to talk about writing that tricky trilogy - especially the kind which involves the same characters.

Welcome, Raj!

I recently attended a panel discussion by authors who wrote Young Adult series. A few had written a sequel to their first book and the rest had written a series. One particular author claimed that the trilogy was the perfect formula for a successful teen story. Her break down summed up like this: Book One – The problem, Book Two – Lead characters make out, and Book Three – Good triumphs evil and good wins.


Although humorous, I found her understanding of the trilogy rather simple and limiting. In fact I can think of many reasons why an author should avoid writing a trilogy. Here are my Top Five reasons to STOP yourself before you commit.


1.      Why say in three what you could have said it in one? Don’t drag the story on just to fill pages. If the story can be finished, don’t test your readers’ attention span and force them to walk down random alleys (YES-That was an intentional shout-out to the Alley Cats! J ) and side streets to get to the ending.

2.      The love story can taper off and become repetitive once the main characters have hit it off. How many more romantic scenes can you write in there that don’t repeat the same kinds of lines and try to evoke the same emotion from your readers from that first scene. Three books later and it is no easy task to keep the romance fresh and memorable.

3.      The villain must continue to be a threat, and unless we’re talking the kind of character whose name shall not be said that tends to disappear and resurrect every book, we’re likely to run out of ways to invite the antagonist to continue to evoke the suspense and setbacks of the first book.

4.      The cliffhanger ending of each book in a series is a tough one to swallow when your readers start giving you feedback and reviews. Accusations of “unfair” and “too many unanswered questions” follow you until the next book comes out. Questions are good. But every question an author lays down must be followed by an answer or a very good reason for not answering it.

5.      The third book let down. Sometimes, that third book just ends and there’s little sense of satisfaction and a feeling of betrayal, because the build-up of books one and two fills a reader with expectations of a grand finale. And when that doesn’t happen, you feel like the characters forgot who they were. The author rushed and had to turn the book in. Or, someone else wrote it. Not good.


BUT sometimes you MUST write on. A sequel. And the trilogy. Sometimes there’s room for more and here are several reasons an author should write on.

1.      The story demands more. There were questions in Book one too vast to answer in one book. The answers were too long to squeeze into a quick ending or epilogue.

2.      The characters’ voices needed to be heard. Sometimes a POV needs to change so readers can get to know the other key players in the story better. Sometimes that calls for another book.

3.      New characters and new settings are introduced. But not too new and no one that wasn’t sort of hinted at along the way, else chance falling into that side streets-distractions category. New members of the story create new interactions with the original team and lots of exciting things can happen.

4.      Character growth happens in stages and just because your lead character tackles and overcomes one challenge that helps him or her become more brave or more kind or more honest, there are still other areas he or she can grow in. This can lead to depth and complexity. And readers draw closer to the characters as they change, falter, grow and blossom.

5.      Readers will ask. Bear in mind: the answer isn’t always supposed to be yes. But if it is, send your characters to places that stretch them, push them to new limits, and find that most amazing journey that leads them to a place where you can walk away as a writer like a parent sending off her kids to college. Not that fictional characters can write their own happy endings [Did you catch that Regina? #OUAT,] but if we leave them in a place where readers can walk away with the words “Wow, just wow” on their lips—mission accomplished.

As an author of her first trilogy, I can honestly say that I never intended for Talia and Jesse’s story to turn into three books. BUT, I am so glad they hung around a little longer for me to find their journey of courage and hope. I never want to be that author who ties up every loose end and leaves a book with a bow neatly wrapped around it at the end. I also never want to be that writer who writes the story readers are expecting. Because life is full of the unexpected! And complex characters get permission to be larger than life when they walk through the door marked Fiction.


So go forth. Write on. Write well. And may the power of great stories be ever with you. J

Rajdeep Paulus, Award-Winning author of Swimming Through Clouds, Seeing Through Stones, and Soaring Through Stars, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook, TwitterPinterest, or Instagram.



Amy Leigh Simpson said...

So great, Raj! Love this! And I loved book one! I've got some serious catching up to do!!! Can't wait!

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Thanks, Amy!! Excited to hear what you think! Hope are things? Love all the pics of your cutie pies! hugs, Raj

Casey said...

I have always toyed with the idea of a series. I think if I did write one, I'd write the kind, like many, who stand alone, but have a common thread that tie them all together.

Glad to have you Raj! :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Striking cover and wise advice! So many series are drawn out too much. I'd also love to know your thoughts on the trend to make the last installment of a series' movie adaptation into two films per book (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

Striking cover and wise advice! So many series are drawn out too much. I'd also love to know your thoughts on the trend to make the last installment of a series' movie adaptation into two films per book (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.)

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Thanks, Casey!

I like that idea. That's something I might do in the future as well. :)

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Hi Laurie,

Thanks, Laurie!

Firstly, I think we'll agree, there's no comparison between a book and the movie - the book is always better. The trend to divide the last book into two movies is not my favorite. BUT if I were to change it, I would want three books to be made into six movies so I can experience all or most of the scenes on the big screen. If a cast is picked well, I love the movies, so I would pay to see all of them! That's me. What are your thoughts?

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Raj, things are moving at a snails pace, but at least they're moving now! So glad to hear things are going well with your amazing books!!!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I think you raised some great questions.

My daughter and I read and discuss the same books. She frequently has a critical word about trilogies. The first book will just knock her socks off so she dives into book two then somewhere in the middle she closes the book before finishing it. Book three never stands a chance.

We should not follow trends. We need to write the story, the whole story--if that involves a trilogy, and nothing but the story--if that involves a stand a lone.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Raj. I love your smile.

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Thanks so much, Mary! I tend to agree with your daughter. How old is she? Hope she gives Swimming a shot! :) 😊

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Trilogies have gotta be one of the hardest things to pull off!! All those plot threads and character arcs to juggle... makes my head spin just thinking about it. Kudos to you for pulling it off, and great advice!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Also... I love your book titles! They have a great flow. :)

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Thank you, Karen!

You are spot on! When I went back to read Book One, I realized that I had changed a very minor character's name and made someone a different age when reflecting on the past. SO Glad I caught these details.

What's really fun about writing a series is how you can look back and find tiny threads to carry through and make connections that you never planned for, but make you look like you planned it all along.

On a random note: My seven-year old noticed her teacher wearing STARS on the day of my book launch and then went on to learn the word "Coink-a-dink." :)