Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Trilogy: Why Three is the Perfect Number

You know the saying, "two's company, three's a crowd"? It's not true when it comes to series. I'm a big fan of the trilogy, so when I started out writing about the Deadglass world, an arc of three seemed only natural. One book can stand alone, but it doesn't leave anything to entice the reader who's left off wanting more. Two always feels unfinished to me; it's like the main event and then a hasty afterthought. But three...ah, three is the magic number. As storytellers, we like things that come in threes: Three wishes. Three hurdles to cross. Three sons to set off to make their fortunes. Even more structural: three acts. There is something magical about the symmetry of having three steps of character transformation, three acts to complete the quest, and then three books to achieve not only the transformation of the character, but of the entire world. 

In the Deadglass Trilogy, each book has a different hero/heroine pair that risk everything to find love. That love allows them to complete their part of the quest, but the world of the Deadglass won't be saved until all three journeys are complete. A trilogy arc fit my requirements perfectly, because I knew I needed one book to break the world, one to pick up the pieces, and one to put it back together again.

When I think back on my favorite childhood books, they were all trilogies. Whenever the author tried to extend the magic, the forth book fell flat. I loved Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, and Phil Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy. Long series have always eventually lost my interest. The books start to sound the same. The world building grows stale. The action turns into an endless parade of past characters. As a reader, I need closure. I can only go so many years without knowing who the Big Bad is or seeing the hero finally get his HEA. Three isn't long enough for readers to drift away. It's just the right size for a hefty chunk of world building and a satisfying finish.

Do you agree? Have you ever drifted off halfway through the Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, or Sookie Stackhouse series? Do you ever wish your favorite authors would hurry it up already, or do you think the slower the build up, the better the climax?

A native Seattleitte, Kira spent her childhood hiking the rainy forests of the Pacific Northwest and drying out by the fire with a good book and a mug of something hot. She graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her real life Prince Charming and promptly dragged him back to sunless Seattle. She fell in love with historic, haunted cities in graduate school. Now she writes about the twisted cities of her imagination, where wraiths and shape-shifters stalk the night and love redeems even the darkest heart. When not writing, she can be found drinking inordinately large mugs of Assam tea, knitting wool socks, and raising a wee heroine-in-training. Her website is


In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman’s courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural war—and an irresistible passion…

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.


Mary said...

I like series, but I like long series. The one that comes to mind that I've been hooked on since the first book in Christine Feehan's Dark series. There are more than 20 books in this series right now and I'm loving it.

I have read a few trilogies and as long as the books are long enough to really get all the story in there and let us get to know the characters...trilogies are fine with me.

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Eli Yanti said...

i like the cover book, Kira :)

I'm prefer if the author is not too hurry up on the book but not to slow in the build up too and there have to the climax probably 1 chapter before the ending of the book :)

Pat Cochran said...

My favorite series are by Stephanie Laurens,
Cindy Gerard, and Suzanne Brockmann. They
are all quite long especially the Laurens
Cynster series! I guess I like the fact that
an author can delve deeper into the story backgrounds!

Pat Cochran

molly.frenzel said...

It depends on my mood whether I prefer trilogies or larger series. Sometimes when I start a series, I like knowing that the series is only a trilogy because I know the author is going to wrap up the story in just 3 books. Sometimes a series with a large number of books can seem daunting and I'll put off starting it.

Kira Brady said...

Thanks for your responses! I don't know that I've ever finished a particularly long series. Harry Potter might have been the longest, but even then I felt I needed to reread books before the next one came out. I read quite far in Laurens's Cynster series, but I read all the books out of order. ;) It didn't help keep the info straight!