Do Story Trilogies Always End in War?

I just blazed through Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As I neared the end, I noticed a trend in sequels, especially ones that lead to a trilogy: War.

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I don’t think I’m giving away too much when I read that the peculiars in the book were gearing up for a war against the hollows. (There’re plenty of other twists in the book that will keep you guessing). Now, I don’t know if the peculiar series will be a trilogy or keep going, but I do know they’re following a trilogy pattern set forth by many previous books.

Let’s face it. Sequels need to be more than their predecessor. Bigger. Flashier. With more risk. Some story trilogies handle this by piling on the villains. (Think about the orginal Batman movies. You have Joker in the first one. Then Penguin and Catwoman int he second. By the third, the landscape is littered with villains.)

The smarter story trilogies go for the “war” arc. In the first book, it’s only the protagonist up against the ropes. He or she has to face amazing odds. By the sequel, though, the landscape of conflict broadens. Often book two (or movie two) is a prelude to war. Characters are gearing up. The final payoff comes in the final installment where all hell breaks loose.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples.

Hunger Games: This one is almost the template for the war arc. Book one is only Katniss. By book two, she’s swept up in a conspiracy to use her as a leader for the resistance. Then book three is all about the war.

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Uglies: Still my favorite book series, it too follows the war arc, although a bit more slowly. In book two (Pretties), Tally leaves the rebellion to go “undercover” in the city. Yet it completes the cycle by making her a super-weapon to help fight the war in the third book (Specials).

Lord of the Rings: True, both the second and third books have wars, but the scope expands. Two Towers has Rohan fighting for survival and the force against them seems gargantuan. Yet this battle seems teeny when compared to the epic clash for Gondor in Return of the King. Think about it. This book series started with nine companions, yet broadened to take on the whole world of Middle Earth.

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Star Wars: I’m only going to look at the original movies (Episodes IV through VI), though I imagine this war arc would apply to the prequels. True, the rebellion attacks and destroys the Death Star in Episode IV. Yet this was just Lucus going for broke. Who knew if he’d ever get funding for the remaining movies. Then compare the rebel force from New Hope to the rebels at the end of Empire Strikes Back. A complete scale up. The rebels are preparing for a massive battle that happens, surprise, in the third movie (Return of the Jedi).

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Does this war arc hold true for any other books or films? You tell me. Comment below if you have any other stellar examples.

Tim Kane

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Curse of the Slow Reader

I read slower than molasses oozes. Some of it comes from my hang up on grammar. I recall that when I first started to write, I’d make every sentence grammatically correct. No fragments. The same with reading. If there was something askew with the text, I kept reading it. Obsessed in a way. Seeking to fix the problem in my mind.

I took a speed reading class when I was younger. Interesting technique, but I’d never want to use it. It’s like eating ice cream in pill form. It sucks all the magic out of reading. Sure it works, but do you really need to read that fast?

I have gotten better (both with the grammar and the reading). Mostly it came with practice. I realized I couldn’t be an adequate writer if I didn’t read a whole heck of a lot. I started with audio books. (At the time I had a 20 minute commute). Then, as my mind adjusted to the rhythm of reading again, I tried out the paper and ink versions again.

A lot had to do with my students as well. I wanted to introduce some middle grade and young adult books to them, but I felt I should read them first to make sure they were kosher. This led to my first reading obsession: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I inhaled that book.

My slow reading had another curse. When I joined my online critique group, I was given three sets of 50 page manuscripts and two weeks to read them. Anxious didn’t even describe me. I took those suckers to work and read them in my spare time. I just barely made the deadline. Now I’m a bit faster. I have to be. Life is hectic and if I’m going to read at all, I have to dive in. No holding back.

So if you lament you tortoise like reading habits, worry not. You’re in good company. Keep reading though. You’ll get better and you just may enjoy the ride.

Tim Kane

5 Books I Couldn’t Put Down

It isn’t often that I’m struck by this phenomenon: I start reading, pass a point, and I can’t stop. I literally steal every single moment to read, craving each and every word of a book. What follows are five books I’ve been addicted to.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

Although the selling point for this novel is the bizarre (and authentic) photos of freaks, the book doesn’t need them. That’s how captivating the prose is. I started reading it on my Nook and eventually sneaked away from my family to finish it. It has time travel, freaks, and monsters. Who could want more? Plus it has the most realistic young romance I’ve read in years. I actually want to buy another copy in print, just to appreciate the pictures.

Uglies
by Scott Westerfeld

This book constantly circles through my head. It’s not just the premise (getting surgery at 16 to make yourself pretty) but the characters and the world is addicting. The hoverboards, the Smoke, the Specials (hyper-enhanced soldiers). I’m amazed this hasn’t made it to film yet.

 

The Wave
by Todd Strasser

This is a book I chanced upon in the bookstore, picked up, and then never put down. It concerns a high school teacher wanted to instruct his class on why Germans were swept up by the Nazi movement, so he started a propaganda campaign in his class. Soon the whole school is involved and the experiment is out of control.

 

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King

I’ve read this book at least six times (in print and audio). The opening line is the best: “The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.” It follows a girl who gets lost in the woods and has to face the God of the Lost. She struggles to survive, her only salvation is a radio which plays the Red Sox games with her favorite pitcher, you guessed it, Tom Gordon.

 

Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare
by Darren Shan

There are too darned many vampire books. Yet this one has such a vivid voice it’s addictive. I showed it to a colleague of mine who can hardly spare the time to read a comic book, and he devoured it. It’s a book build for people who don’t like to read. Addictive.

Hope you fall in love with one of these.

Tim Kane