Being as I’m finishing the second novel in a popular fantasy trilogy, I thought it a good time to voice my complaints when it comes to trilogies in general. Don’t get me wrong, I love trilogies. There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to finish one book and move on to the next and to invest in characters and stories beyond one book, but there are 3 major issues I have to address. Why only 3? One for each book of course. So, without further delay, my top 3 trilogy pet peeves:
Number 1. Nothing Happens:
In the first novel, battles are fought, main characters are killed off, affairs are had, and positions are won, basically stuff happens. In the second book, small groups of characters stand around and talk, and talk, and talk about stuff that is going to happen, but won’t happen. It’s like the running joke on South Park about George R. R. Martin’s dragons: “There coming, and when they do they’re going to be amazing!”
So, the point of the first book is to hook the reader and then the second book is supposed to fill space for the third . . . why not then just write 2 books if that’s how it’s going to be? Seriously, I’m so tired of reading eight hundred pages of filler with only the hope that the third book is better. And when it’s not, I feel totally robbed of my time.
Number 2. The Editor Checks Out:
Have you ever noticed how tight the first book is when it comes to syntax, diction, etc., but then the second book is kind of sloppy, jarring at times, and is littered with typos and grammar issues? I have, and it’s driving me crazy! It’s bad enough when you find a typo in any novel, but sequels tend to run rampant with errors. Why? Because the editor clocked out. All of the effort goes into the first novel because that’s the one that is going to hook the readers. After that, it’s like they don’t care anymore whether or not the reader actually enjoys the reading experience. I don’t know about you, but typos and grammar issues, as well as clunky writing, detract from my enjoyment.
Number 3. Character Assassination:
Finally, but certainly not the least of my complaints is character assassination, and by character assassination, I don’t only mean character deaths. Though, I do hate when a main character from the first novel is swiftly killed off in the second or third novel to make way for new and often less interesting characters. Worse off, is when a character, who is fully developed and multi-dimensional becomes suddenly flat and 1 dimensional. That is the main flaw I’ve noticed in the 3-part series I’m currently reading. Characters from the first novel who were interesting, conflicted, and human are suddenly flat, over simplified, and lacing in depth. Also, bad, is when the characters just act out of character, when you know they would never behave in such a manner. The purpose of reading a trilogy is to stay with a character or group of characters, so when they die (in any form of the word) it defeats the purpose.
Okay, now that I’ve complained about the 3 things I dislike most about trilogies, let me go ahead and share the 3 things I really like that good trilogies do well.
1. Raising the Stakes:
When a trilogy or series in general is done right, the stakes are raised higher with each book until you wonder if the characters can even dream of triumph. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a classic example of a series that does it right. Each book sees the battles bigger, the baddies badder, and the fate of the world more and more at stake. By the last book, the reader does not believe good will triumph over evil. That is how it should be done.
2. New Characters:
This one is probably a peeve for most people, but I actually enjoy the addition of new characters in a series. I just don’t want them to take over, per say. This makes me a total hypocrite because the third novel in the trilogy I’m working on spotlights 3 new characters, while maintaining the original cast of course. Haha.
New characters alter the group dynamic, provide new interaction for original characters, and can contribute to the story in other interesting ways. Again, The Lord of the Rings is a good example here with the introduction of many new characters as the series continues, each one more interesting than the last.
I know I complained about filler, but to me there is a difference between filler and indulgence. Filler is unimportant, unnecessary things happening for no reason other than word count. On the other hand, indulgence is when an author takes the time to linger on a meaningful scene or character interaction because they and the reader enjoy it. Trilogies provide ample opportunity and justification for authors to indulge a little on their favorite scenes and characters, which personally I enjoy.
So, there you have it, my top 3 complaints and praises for trilogies. What are yours?