Monday, September 28, 2009

Why all book series must be trilogies

How many books should a series run?



By Rebecca Cantrell


A series should always be a trilogy. Who has ever heard of a du-ology? And bi-ology is something quite different. What about a quadrology? Pentology? Nope. Clearly if there is no word for it, it just can’t be.


And trilogy is a versatile term. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is a four book trilogy. So is “Lord of the Rings,” if you count “The Hobbit.” Those are some successful quadrologies. The “Harry Potter” books are a septology, which doesn’t quite sound as naughty as a sextology, but after all those books are for kids.


Titles matter too. If you start with “A is for Alibi” you know you only have 24 more titles until you reach “Z is for Zero.” (What’s the word for a 26 part series? Kelli, you’re the Latin buff. Lend us a hand.) But if you start with “One for the Money,” you can keep writing until “Google Me Grandma Mazur.”


In all seriousness, a series should run exactly as long as the writer can tell rewarding stories in that world. Or until the publishers and readers stop buying them. As a writer, I hope for the first. Especially as I’m on the third book in my trilogy.


I’ll close by paraphrasing a junior high English teacher who, when I asked how long an essay should be, said “As long as a piece of rope.”


Drove me crazy then too.

12 comments:

♥Jen♥ said...

What a wonderful way to start my day...laughing. This is so funny; thanks Rebecca! And "as long as a piece of rope." Crap! Wish I'd have had that one in my arsenal when I was teaching! LOL

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks, Jen! I figured since CJ made all the intellectual comments, all that was left was the role of smartass. ;)

I wish I could remember that teacher's name, but sad to say that line is all I remember from his class. That and the fact that he used a toilet seat as his bathroom pass, which pretty much kept all the 7th grade girls from ever going to the bathroom during English...hmmm..maybe that was on purpose...

♥Jen♥ said...

I think I vaguely remember a teacher having a toilet seat as a pass, too. Must have been a secret in teacher ed classes that I missed out on! LOL

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Maybe you were just too kind. ;)

And I asked a friend from seventh grade. His name was Mr Travis. So, thank you Mr Travis for your lessons on perspective and bladder control!

Dorte H said...

A series of 26: an alphabology?

I must try the one about the rope in one of my English classes. The boys will laugh, some of the diligent girls might try to lynch me. My own (annoying) answer is: "I want quantity, not quality". And it must be the same with crime series, as long as the readers agree the novels are of good quality ... Sue Grafton seems to be able to pull it off, but some writers should have stopped after the trilogy.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hi Dorte! I like the term "alphabology." Maybe I'll write one of those myself. :)

I was one of those diligent girls, so I hated that answer. Sadly, all these years later, I do see the wisdom of it. Didn't help at the time though. :)

peterb said...

"On Sunday, the Rabbit Wrote Sequels"

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Hello peterb (peter bunny, perhaps?) Rabbits are very good at sequels. They produce them like...well..rabbits.

peterb said...

I was trying to riff on this mystery series, but the riffing doesn't work so well when you make spelling mistakes.

Leslie said...

At this point I'll be happy with a unology, but if I ever get the first one done I'll quickly be worrying about how long the series will be ;-)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I started out with an unology too. It quickly became a duology. Now it's a trilogy, with the quadrology (or a quartet)coming soon. Maybe to move on to a quidnunc (which someone on facebook told me is the word for 5 in a series).

Leslie said...

I'll look forward to that same progression (fingers crossed) ;-) The day job seems to keeps sucking up my time!