Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book Two, Or Where It Usually Falls Apart

Welcome to the second installment of my discussion post series Breaking Down the Trilogy! I’ve already looked at the quirks of Book One, so today I’m looking at…

Part Two: Book Two

This is, I think, the hardest book in a trilogy to get right. One and Three usually have clear purposes (The Introduction and The Conflict’s Culmination, to put it simply), but Two is a strange bridge between the two that often gets lost.

As always, these are just my opinions. If you disagree, comment! This is a discussion post! It is supposed to start a conversation!

what i look for b2

It’s own plot: This is a must for me. Just because Book Three will probably have the most important climaxes and conflict resolutions does not mean that book two is allowed to have no plot of its own. Book Two needs to do more than raise the stakes for Book Three.

The same “feel” of Book One: I hate it when I pick up the second book in a trilogy and it suddenly has a completely different focus, feeling, and tone as the first book. I don’t like surprises; if I liked Book One enough to pick up Book Two, I better get what I ordered—that is, more of what I loved in Book One. Of course the story should develop, but I should still be able to recognize the story at the end of the second book.

Lots of development: Characters and conflicts have to develop in Book Two. I like seeing new characters or new plot lines introduced that push new buttons in existing characters. I like it when allegiances get complicated and change. If you’re going to spend an entire book with the characters, things need to be shaken up.

Build to Book Three (without overpowering Book Two): Of course, the most powerful book in a trilogy is usually the third one. That’s where the plot that links all three books together gets resolved, often with a war (just saying). Because of this, Book Two should build toward Book Three. Though it has its own plot, I want to feel like I’m on the ride up on a roller coaster, where Book Three is the crazy drop.

A Little Love Triangle Drama: If there is a love triangle, I’m okay with some drama in Book Two. Maybe we see a different side of the love interest we’d written off. Maybe the love interest that “won” in Book One turns out to be an asshole under the new circumstances of the second book. Again, the love triangle developing shouldn’t be the only plot that the second book has, but it can definitely be a subplot.

cant stand b2

When it is just Book Three’s exposition: I’ve already touched on this a lot, but Book Two should be able to stand on its own. It brings the reader to Book Three, but it has to be more than a trailer for Book Three. So often, I see trilogies have a strong first book that has its own plot, and then books two and three are just one long plot line—which gets really old, really fast.

When it completely breaks with Book One: I already talked about how much I need Book Two to continue the things I loved about Book One. On this note, I absolutely hate it when I pick up Book Two and I can barely recognize the story that started in the first book.

When the romance from Book One is destroyed for no reason: So many ships sink during Book Two! Sometimes this is because of a love triangle, sometimes just a misunderstanding. And while I appreciate relationships being dynamic and developing, I hate it when it feels like characters only broke up in Book Two so that they could get back together at an appropriate moment in Book Three.

When it exists only so that Book Three can be hella dramatic: So often it feels like Book Two is just characters stumbling through a minefield, detonating various bombs for Book Three to deal with. Characters broke up! Someone has a secret agenda! The plan went awry! And you’ll see the resolution after the break…that is, in the next book.

Book Three should be dramatic. It’s the end of a series! But Book Two needs to have its own, self-contained drama. At least, that’s my two cents.

What do you think? Do you agree? What pitfalls or successes have you seen in Book Twos that you’ve read?

4 thoughts on “Breaking Down the Trilogy: Book Two, Or Where It Usually Falls Apart

  1. Think I agree with most of the above. My biggest gripe with book 2 is usually when it’s obviously just a filler i.e. nothing actually happens. Sometimes it feels like authors have an idea for a story and rather than just writing one book they feel the need to pad it out to a trilogy. I think every book should have it’s own story.

    I also don’t like it when the second book is pretty much a repeat of the first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a lot of trilogies exist because the story was a bit to long for one book, so the author tried to make it into three. I wish duologies were more accepted, because a lot of series would benefit from that shorter format.
      I agree, book two being the same as book three is frustrating!

      Liked by 1 person

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