Friday, May 8, 2009

Some Good Advice and a little more.

I've been reading Robert Gregory Browne's blog of sorts, and it's filled to the brim with interesting articles and anecdotes about writing and publishing. He's a little confused on the subject of agents, but that's because he's never (by his own admission) written a good query letter in his life.

But he raised some interesting questions for me, and I have no idea how to answer them myself. He's discussing structure and conflict, and the three acts of a story; act one - the beginning, the set up, the lead in, what-have-you. Act two - the middle, the meat of the story, the bridge. Act three - the conclusion, the climax, wrapping it all up and finishing with a bang.

And it made me start thinking about my book, versus the other fantasy trilogies I've read, and another sci-fi trilogy that just popped into my mind.

I'll clarify.

Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy is one mega-quest that spans three novels in order to complete, the quest to save the world from The One Great Evil, and it's stuffed full of mini-quests, and tangents, and the stories and set up of other characters that don't show up until later, at which point they serve a great deal of good towards the completion of the Mega-Quest.

In contrast, Eversong is one book with two sequels
rather than a comprehensive story that spans three novels. Does this make sense?

I'll rephrase, because it's not really making sense to me, so I can't expect it to make sense to other people.

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is one story that spans three novels. Eversong is three completely separate stories, and over the course of those stories, Vicky grows as a person. The same thing happens in MST, granted; Simon starts off as a care-free lad more interested in daydreaming than anything serious, and by the end of the trilogy, he's a mature young man who becomes king. I'm still making no sense to myself.

Expect the rest of this entry to be likewise as rambling.

The problem I'm seeing with Eversong is that it doesn't quite need to be a trilogy. From where I see it now, each book could probably stand on it's own, with references from the previous novels standing in for having read the novel itself. If you picked up Eversong: Dark Star Rising, you'd see Vicky on the eve of her wedding, when something happens to disrupt it, and then she goes on a quest to defeat the newest threat to Eversong, does so, gets married, and lives happily ever after. You won't have to read Eversong or Return to Eversong in order to understand Dark Star, because each novel is it's own, contained arc, with it's own, contained three acts. The reason there's three of them is to follow Vicky on her quest to find love, friendship, and a place in life, and to see how she matures through the trials she experiences.

The reason I mentioned The Crystal Singer Trilogy above, is because it does the same thing. You don't need to have read Crystal Singer and Killashandra in order to understand Crystal Line. They're each self-contained stories, within the same universe and with the same characters. There are references (in Killashandra, the main character talks about 'The Trundimoux Installation', an event that took place near the end of Crystal Singer.) but from the surrounding paragraphs, it's easy to deduct that the Trundimoux Installation was a complete mess for Killa, and she didn't like it, and she doesn't want a repeat of the event in the newest mission she's been given.

And here's where I feel like I need to go shout my blog from the roof-tops, because I need people to read it, and tell me what they think, as I'm wondering which why is better. After having gone through all this trouble to set up the three novels as self-contained stories that simply follow Vicky on her journey, should I scrap the whole thing and re-write it to be one cohesive story, that the dark-elf menace and the Dragon Wars were the harbingers of the Dark Star problem?

TL;DR: Most trilogies ARE the three acts of novel writing. The first novel is the set up, the second novel is the bridge, and the third novel is the climax.

This way of writing is good, but often the end result is something like The Lord of the Rings, in that the first novel, the set up, is infinitely interesting, because you're just beginning to learn about your main character, and the troubles they're about to face. The third novel is also infinitely interesting, because the story is wrapping up, the threads are coming together, and the Ultimate Evil is about to be vanquished once and for all. The middle book, the bridge, is unquestionably the most boring, and the toughest to get through, because nothing's happening. It's just a path between the set up and the climax.

With Eversong, this isn't the case, and I just want some opinions on what the majority of readers think is a better way of going about it.

1 comment:

  1. There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to each approach, which is a frustrating beginnig to my opinion, I have no doubt.

    I'm certain you can be effective/successful either way you choose, but I think it's best to have some overlap to entice your readers to follow your MC through her journey.

    I hesitate to use this as my case in point, b/c my involvement w/this series is purely cinematic, but since the rest of mankind and potentially monkeys have read it, what the heck ... Harry Potter. 7 different books. 7 separate conflicts. 7 big battles. But ... If you don't read books 1 and 6, I imagine Book 7 would leave you scratching your head and saying ... "Huh? Volde-who?" Or something like that. (note: I am aware HP isn't a trilogy, just so we're clear ...)

    Some trilogies that handle their plots/characters similarly that come to mind are:
    Twilight (which I know you hate, but it IS a best seller)--to me, this is a mixture b/w the 2, but more or less a have-to-read-all-3-to-get-it type of trilogy.

    Uglies--I'm on book 3 now. Book 1 was an adventure with a conclusion, but that conclusion led naturally to a sequel. As did Book 2. Could you pick up book 2 w/o reading book 1? Sure. Would you care as much about Tally and gang? Unlikely.

    His Darkest Materials--not my cup of tea, but my husband devoured these. According to him, this trilogy is more of the 3 books=1 big conclusion type of series, with each book having its own mini-journey throughout.

    To conclude my babbling longwindedness (which I'm sure is NOT a word, but I'm too tired to think of one that is), I think the stories should overlap somewhat, so that I care enough about Vicky to read about her entire journey. To me--and I realize this is just my opinion and others may snark at it--it can get a little contrived when all of the books have entirely self-contained storylines with little or no overlap. Did that make sense? I think not. Let me give an example of what I mean.

    Option 1: Vicky goes to Eversong. Vicky saves the day. Happily ever after. But ... Eversong comes calling--"Help! New bad guy!" Vicky saves the day. Happily ever after. Eversong comes calling .... Help! Saves the day. HEA.

    Option 2: Vicky goes to Eversong, saves the day, lives happily ever after .... sort of. But something is left unresolved, not only in Eversong but hopefully b/w the characters themselves. And that something will be a (somewhat significant) thread in book 2. And ditto for book 3.

    I realize I may be entirely misrepresenting your storytelling process, but if I'm given the choice between options 1 and 2, I'm picking 2 any day of the week.

    That being said, if you make me love Vicky, I'll follow her anywhere.

    (I'm not previewing this, so try not to laugh at any flaming grammatical errors and/or nonsense that I've brandished).