The other day I got to be a guest speaker in a high school creative writing class. During the question and answer session, one of the students asked me how I managed to pull my trilogy series for New Sight apart into a plot for three separate books.
To be honest, I’d never thought of the New Sight story as just one book, so I’d never had his dilemma—which seemed to be that his story was too big for one book, so it needed to be partitioned into three.
My answer was clumsy, but in essence what I’m about to type.
How should the progression of a trilogy go?
I’m not an expert—in oh so many things—but I’m good at stealing, er learning from others. In this case, I always go back to the original Star Wars series. For me, they are a good balance for a trilogy. I’m not sure if they are the trope or of they just used all of the tropes. Doesn’t matter, we’re going to chat about them today.
The simple and overall plot of Episodes 4-6 is that Luke has to take down the Empire. (I’m ignoring Anakin’s story for now. Mostly because I can.) To take him from moisture farming nephew to a Jedi Knight capable of convincing his no-good father that he needs to toss the Emperor out the air lock (ish) is a bit much for a two hour film. Plus, Han Solo wouldn’t have gotten nearly enough screen time, and there wouldn’t be nearly enough C3P-O comic relief moments. And we needed all of the other characters to take down the military might of the Empire while Luke takes care of the Emperor/Daddy issue.
So how do you put breaking points in a monster like this?
Luke is a farm boy. The Emperor is a Sith Lord. There’s no way that Luke is getting anywhere near him without being able to use the Force. In order to become a Jedi and gain control over the Force, he needs to know what the Force is, what it does and that he can trust it.
In A New Hope, Luke is introduced to the Force by the crazy guy in the desert, he gets tossed in with the rebellion (those other characters I was mentioning), runs like mad from Darth Vader, and he is urged by the now disembodied voice of the desert dude to use the Force to blow the Death Star. Which he does. So it’s a set-up movie, but it doesn’t beat the audience over the head like many of today’s origin stories do.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke is sent off to learn more about the Force—which he has obviously been working on—by his dead mentor’s ghost thing. His rebellion buddies get to tangle with the tangible bad guy while Luke runs around a smelly swamp lifting rocks and eating dirt. Luke has to gain these skills in order to go up against the Daddy/Emperor combo. Han and Leia fall in love. At the end, Luke has faced Darth Vader, and he knows all of the family secrets. He also kind of lost the fight with his dad, but he is determined to go after his friend, Han. So he’s learned about the Force, but he’s also learned what’s truly important—friends, loyalty and caring about others.
That sets him up for Return of the Jedi. Luke has his Force skills, he’s in it deep with the Rebellion, he’s heading up the rescue party for Han and he’s mentally preparing for the fight he knows is coming. With all of that, he’s as ready as he can be to go after the big goal and take down the Emperor. And in the end, he doesn’t actually strike the Emperor down, but instead uses the Force and the loyalty and caring about others that he learned in the first two movies to NOT turn to the dark side. Which looks pretty painful, if you ask me.This brings good old Anakin (aka stupid head) out of his twenty year funk and gives him the man parts to toss the old man out like yesterday’s trash.
That’s what I told the class the other day. Use each book to bolster the main character’s set of skills and tools so that they are ready for the big fight at the end of the series.
What do you think? Do you agree? Am I way off?