Guest blog from Lynn Viehl… also known as …the day Shiloh curled into a ball and cried

Contest is OVER.  No comments posted after 12/7/2012 will be entered… winner posted next week… thank you!

Why? Because I CAN’T WIN THINGS ON MY OWN BLOG! Damn it! Kicks rocks.


Carrying on… ahem.

Here we go!  Everybody say hi to Lynn!

Everybody!  Read her awesome post and enter to win her awesome prize…and ignore me. I’m over here kicking rocks.

The Rule of Three

Lynn Viehl

Lately my life has become a ménage à trois .  Not in the classic sense, of course; that would be a little difficult to explain to my mother:  Hi Mom, meet my guy, and my other guy.  I know it’s a little unconventional but . . . Mom, put down the baseball bat.  Instead, sets of threes have taken over my life:  I live with three wonderful people (my guy and our two kids) and three pets (two dogs and a cat.) Every day I work three jobs (author, housewife and teacher) and devote my spare time to three hobbies (quilting, painting and journaling.)  Last week I even grew two extra heads.  No, honestly, I didn’t, but I bet you’re paying attention now, right?

Despite all the naturally-occurring, non-gruesome, G-rated threesomes in my life I’m still learning how the rule of three works.  Did you know there is an actual rule involved?  As it happens using threes is a sure-fire way to make things like storytelling, humor and ideas more effective, as three is the smallest number of things that make up a pattern.  Because it’s the smallest, it’s also the easiest for us to follow, understand and remember.  For example, we can name the Three Stooges (Larry, Curly and Mo) much faster than Snow White’s Seven Dwarves (Sleepy, Dopey, Angry, Smiley, Shorty . . . and those other two little guys.)

Writers rely on the rule of three when we structure classic story arcs (aka the introduction, the complication, and the resolution) and comedians tell jokes with the comic triple (the set-up, the expectation, and the punch line.)  Back in 1971 our teachers even used the rule of three while making us memorize a new street safety code — Stop, Look and Listen — that reduced road casualties across the nation 11% that year and has been saving young lives ever since.

It’s also natural for most storytellers to unconsciously rely on the rule of three when writing a story (according to Philip Larkin, a beginning, a muddle and an end.)  I’ve always liked writing trilogies, and the very first romances I published were a threesome, at least until my editor said, “Where’s book four?”

From there I wrote what would become an eight-novel romantic suspense series, a ten-novel SF series, and then a twelve-novel dark fantasy series, all of which I enjoyed but over time seemed to be stretching out into never-ending stories.  As a reader I enjoy long series, but these days there are so many being published that it’s tough to keep track of which book is what without a cheat sheet.  That’s why I decided to take a break from writing long series and go back to my story-writing roots with the Lords of the Darkyn trilogy.

Writing a three-book series is not easier than a lengthier project; in some ways it’s more demanding.  Having ten or more books to spend in one universe doesn’t impose a lot of limits, but a trilogy demands you get everything done no later than book three.  For me this meant I had to stop falling in love with my secondary characters, most of whom always want their own books. Keeping control of my subplots and connecting threads between the books was also imperative.  It’s a bit like taking a three-day weekend holiday versus spending a month or two on vacation; you can’t bring a lot of baggage, you don’t put off anything important and dawdling by the pool for days to flirt with the cabana boy is simply not an option.

Along with the challenges writing a trilogy offers some decent benefits.  Keeping track of your characters and their storylines doesn’t require updating a complicated, gigantic series encyclopedia; you can usually fit all your story stuff in a few binders.  Readers don’t have to wait years for you to finish a series story, while you don’t have to worry as much about a publisher ending your series before you’ve written the final book.  Trilogies tend to attract more new readers, too, because they don’t have to read five or ten books to catch up if they discover the author in mid-series, because book two is mid-series.

To celebrate the holidays and the release of Nightbred, which is the mid-series novel in my Lords of the Darkyn trilogy, I have for one winner signed copies of all three novels (Nightborn and Nightbred in paperback plus a manuscript copy of Nightbound, which will make the winner the very first person besides me and my editor to read it), all packed in my hand quilted and beaded Emerald Dreams tote. If you’d like a chance to win, in comments name a trilogy or short novel series you’ve enjoyed reading by 12/7/2012… (ETA by Shiloh…I’ll draw a winner and post it here by 12/14…you must check back to see if you won, folks...)  This giveaway is international, too, so everyone on the planet is welcome to join in.

138 thoughts on “Guest blog from Lynn Viehl… also known as …the day Shiloh curled into a ball and cried

  1. Lynn

    Marie, you have a great variety there. I have every book Linda Howard’s ever written and I never get tired of her. I think she’s an amazing writer.

  2. Gabrielle

    I have to go with an oldie but a goodie
    J. R. R. Tolkien

    The Fellowship of the Ring
    The Two Towers
    The Return of the King

  3. Teresa C

    Only a trilogy? That type of series still exists?
    The last series I can see as only a trilogy that I read is the Knitting series by Amy Lane. Otherwise, everything I am reading is running into at least 10 books, or has no clear end point at book 3.
    Tinker series by Wen Spencer only has 3 books right now, but I can see them continuing in that universe.
    The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is at book 14.
    The Walker Papers by CE Murphy is at book 8 now?
    Patricia Briggs can write as many books as she would like in any one of her series, and I will be there.

  4. sandyl

    I really loved the Doris Egan books: Gate of Ivory, Two-Bit Heroes, and Guilt-Edged Ivory. They are out of print, but absolutely wonderful.

  5. Colin Fisk

    Ill go with short novel series (and trilogy of sorts):

    The Privateers and Gentleman series by Jon Williams (aka Walter Jon Willams)

    The Privateer and The Yankee are the first two which set up the final three, The Raider, The Macedonian and Cat Island which can be read as a trilogy. I do know that Walter Jon just got the rights back and is releasing the latter three as ebooks (and renamed them.)

  6. Jen B.

    I love reading series because you can always visit with old “friends”. I am always glad when an author has an ending because I think some series just go on too long. The year I discovered the serial novels that have become so popular. I loved The Rake and The Recluse by Jen LeBlanc. Great romance! Another favorite series is The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. I feel like it was just long enough.

  7. Timitra

    I enjoyed reading Victoria Dahl’s Donovan Brothers trilogy, Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series the original trilogy; Simply Irresistable, The Sweetest Thing and Head Over Heels. I’m looking forward to reading Shiloh Walkers Ash Trilogy!

  8. Emily H.

    I grew up on Madeleine l’Engle, Anne McCaffrey and ElfQuest comics, I am a total sucker for series books. I think I have a favorite series in every genre, although I tend to gravitate towards the longer ones over trilogies. Mary Balogh and Lisa Kleypas have written some of my favorite short series/trilogies in romance, Tad Williams’ Otherland series is one of my favorites in SF….

  9. Lynn

    I’m with you on Patricia Briggs, Teresa. It is getting much harder to find authors who plan trilogies and then stick to the plan. 🙂

  10. Lynn

    Jen, I am mourning the end of Gail’s series, but like you I thought it was exactly the right length. I also like that she left a little mystery involved with what happens to some of the characters, like how Ivy does with her change of situation. 🙂

  11. Lynn

    I fell in love with Anne’s Pern novels when I was a youngster, Emily, but it was Harper Hall trilogy that really made me see what you could do with just three books. 🙂

  12. Lynn

    It’s about time for me to turn into a pumpkin, folks, so I’ll say good night. My thanks to you all for stopping in, and to Shiloh for her generous offer to have me as a guest. Good luck with the giveaway!

  13. donnas

    Nora Roberts has quite a few that I really enjoyed. Shiloh’s Ash series is great. Kelley Armstrong did her YA’s as trilogies, which were really good. There really are so many though that start out as a trilogy but dont end at 3.

  14. Erin

    The first one that popped into my head was Shi’s Ash series. Also Kelley Armstrong’s women of the otherworld series (which just ended).

  15. Tracy Gilpin

    I really enjoyed Shiloh’s If You Hear Her, See Her, Know Her trilogy, as well as some of Nora Roberts (3 Sisters Island, Born in Series).

  16. Kimberly Hammond

    My all time favorite trilogy is The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb…a funny side note to this is I read the books out of order. Second Book, First Book, Third Book. It was a good read all the same.

  17. Barbara Elness

    I would choose Patricia Briggs’ Alpha & Omega series – there are three books in the series currently, although there may be more to come.

  18. Dee

    So far I’m loving The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin, but my other fave is The Strain trilogy by del Toro and Hogan.

  19. Lori Davis

    I just read Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard and loved it so much I didn’t sleep one night to finish it


  20. manya spain-becker

    I know you can’t win, but if I do, will it help if I think about you while enjoying them!!! I love series writers and stand alones as well! It’s about stepping into the zone when I read. Getting out of the hetic rag race and just being entertained!!

  21. Liv

    I’ll go with the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy? I thought it would be easy, but there don’t seem to be that many?

  22. Susanne

    I liked Harry Connolly`s ” Twenty Palaces” trilogy.
    No love, no smut, no romance urban fantasy – written from a guys point of view..and very very good.

  23. Ren

    Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts. I love the way she mix Irish myth and paranormal element. The ending is even its predictable , but she go in unusual route 🙂

  24. Jo Owen

    The first one that came to mind is an oldie but a regular reread – The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay.

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