Thoughts on writing the middle book of a trilogy

Firestone Key was written as a standalone fantasy which, whilst having serious themes, was also peopled by quirky characters and peppered with humour.

When I embarked on the Canellian Eye trilogy, I knew that this landscape was going to be an altogether darker affair. With the tagline Destiny can be savage echoing in my brain, the narrative for Prophecy eventually ended with the Canellians facing their harshest possible outcome. So, can things get any worse? Well, yes, they can. Part 2 is helpfully entitled Rebellion which is a strong indication of where the narrative is heading.

The middle book of a trilogy (or film series for that matter) often seems to take a serious turn to the dark side before the finale gets the characters to where they were always heading and for many reasons can be the most difficult to write. The deepening darkness can be depressing to live with day in, day out, and even more challenging to edit.  This is often offset by the addition of light relief characters (think the robots in Star Wars) and it then becomes a balancing act to keep the ‘dark days’ feel of the novel without pitching into one liners.

Another precarious balance concerns how much repetition from the first book is necessary to keep the reader following the expanding story. What if you have a year, or more, between publication? How much will the reader recall? Too much information and the reader thinks ‘I know this already’, too little and they’re lost. The magic is finding narrative ways to trigger memory without info dumping into the text. Perhaps this is why a lot of modern fantasy series are self resolving within each book, so that you are not left with anything resembling a cliffhanger.

This is not my preference, however, being a lover of the expanding trilogy and a believer in rising out of adversity.  My favourite film is often the middle one; The Empire Strikes Back for Star Wars; The Two Towers for Lord of the Rings; The Desolation of Smaug for The Hobbit.

As I write this, the first draft of Rebellion is complete and the trauma now festering on the page. Lurking on the horizon is the finale and skies will fall.