What’s it like, writing a trilogy?

” . . . those being sort of rare in horror.”

A question I got recently. My answer:

Horror trilogies are kind of a hat trick, aren’t they? Hard to pull off—no, hard to get away with. I mean, in horror, if too many of your characters make it through to the end, then . . . were the stakes really mortal enough? It’s your job as a horror writer to dream up people you want to hang out with, and then terrorize them, and, finally, bury them. This is great and fine for one-shots, but what about when you need some of those people to live, so there can be continuity going into book 2? The readers are going to figure out pretty fast if you’re rigging the dice rolls that save this or that person’s life over and over. So, first, you’ve got to stack the bodies up and keep stacking them up. Then you’ve got to push these ones that are maybe going to live through a serious meatgrinder. And along the way you have to show character growth for whoever your protagonist is—Jade Daniels for me—but not let that growth and development “complete” at the end of the first two installments. That’s the hard part, as growth is the prize they’re supposed to win for solving this book’s problem. It’s how stories are built. The way it works in a trilogy, though, is Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, and it’s only on the very backside of Act 3, book 3, that you can finally gift them what they’ve been waiting and waiting for—which may very well be to join their friends and family in the ground, via a sacrifice that saves their world. Doing it this way can make it hit harder, but only if the meatgrinder that character’s been grinding through has been harsh enough, and only if you’ve been whispering between the lines in books 1 and 2 that there’s hope they’re finally going to get what they’ve been striving for. If everything turns out just perfectly, then, if the stars are just right in the night sky, if you’re holding your lips right for once . . . maybe you’ve got a trilogy. 

I hope I’ve got one with The Angel of Indian Lake. A trilogy’s not just about three books in the same world, with the same people. It’s about change and growth, resolution and resonance. And, because this is Proofrock, it’s also about bodies floating facedown in the lake, wings of blood spreading out from them on top of the water, that we can feel our own hearts pulsing in.

It’s on the shelves in three weeks. 

Thanks for hanging out with Jade.

Author: SGJ