Three is a magic number! So says Schoolhouse Rock and every book publisher across the globe by the looks of it. But Bookish Trish says ‘No, it’s not. Not always!’. We are bombarded with series in general and trilogies in particular and the stand alone books are rarer than a warm summer in Ireland. Slight sidetrack sigh – one warm summer, even one month together of sun and no rain, not so much to ask is it, apparently it is though. And I love reading in the sun. Sigh.
I think series were more popular with kids books in the past, yes Enid Blyton – I’m looking at you in particular – but I could list countless others Elinor M Brent Dyer, Antonia Forest and so on. And yes there were series in adult books but they weren’t as common. I feel the trend really kicked off with the hype over the Harry Potter books. Publishers and authors saw the events at the book stores and people queuing and thought ‘ cha ching, I’ll have myself some of that’!
And I can see the appeal in a way, the first book sets the scene and allows you to build your characters and develop your plot, the second allows you to add layers and complexity, then the third wraps everything up nicely. And gives the author a chance to move on to something new before they get too tired of their characters or before they themselves get too pigeon holed in this world they have created. And of course, they get 3 sales instead of one, cha ching.
Hands up as a reader, I have to admit; sometimes I want a book with characters I already know (like in Cheers where sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name but with me it’s a familiar book and not a bar!). I have already built up a relationship with these folk and I’m always curious to see what direction they go off in next. But ONLY if the plot can sustain my interest. And this is the problem. I don’t want pages and pages of bland filler. Some books are stretched so thin that if the book was an elastic band it would come with a safety warning. And worse the book might have worked ok as a standalone but spreading the plot over 3 books is the kiss of death for it. I’m reading The Sweetest Dark right now and this exactly the way it feels, I’m losing patience and want to yell ‘get on with the story’!
When I see a book is a standalone now, it does catch my attention. I love that the author can tell and complete a story in just one book. I feel automatically that the plot will move faster and I like that I won’t have to invest in a number of books (time wise and financially) . So I’m not saying no more trilogies, some of my favourite books are trilogies – The Hunger Games for example. I’m just pleading to authors, think long and hard about whether this is the right platform for your story. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean its right.
And hopefully the pendulum will swing back soon and we’ll be treated with some excellent, fully complete, single book masterpieces.
Bookish Chat: So what’s your take on trilogies? Love them, hate them? And what is your favourite one?