Writing a Trilogy – The Ending
Hey there, fellow writer! If you have stumbled across this article then you are in luck as we are covering how to write a trilogy and all the main elements you should be focusing on when crafting your series.
Last week we spoke about crafting characters and the various arcs you can take them on throughout your series. This week we will be talking about when it’s the right time to end each of your novels so that you can progress to the next.
If you’ve only just joined us, this is a four-part series that discusses how to write a trilogy. You can check out the articles here:
Plus, I’ll have a free checklist at the end of the series for you to download so you don’t feel too overwhelmed or lost with the whole process.
Now, let’s nail that ending!
HOW TO END EACH INDIVIDUAL NOVEL:
Before we crack down and learn how to end a trilogy, you first need to look at each individual novel in the series and focus on their ending. The ending of your first and second novel should set up the next, and ultimately, the ending of your third novel should tie everything together and finish up the series.
Look at it like this:
The first novel –> Ending sets up second –> Second novel –> Ending sets up third –> Third novel –> Ending sums up entire series.
So, how exactly do you figure out which ending is right for your series? It all comes down to plot arcs, and this is something we spoke about in the first article of this series.
Let’s take a look at how the sorts of plot arcs we’ve covered usually end.
PLOT 1 – THE INTRICATE ARC:
Just to jolt your memory, this type of arc has an overarching plotline that is heavily supported by the conflict that is woven into the story. The example I used for this was The Hunger Games. Now, although the intricate arc has a continuing and overarching storyline, each book also has an individual plot as well.
Taking another look at The Hunger Games – book one focuses on Katniss going into the arena for the first time, book two focuses on her having to go back in again whilst a rebellion begins to rise, and book three is about the rebellion coming to its climax with Katniss at the head.
See how each book, although connected to form an overarching plot of a rebellion that overthrows the capital, has an individual story as well as a bigger one? This is what you utilise to end each novel. Close those individual plot arcs and write a scene or two that sets up your next book.
For example, (and spoiler alert if you haven’t read The Hunger Games), in book two of The Hunger Games series, Katniss survives the arena once again but at a great cost. She is now, unbeknown to her, the face of the rebellion and as a result, the Capitol have blown up her home district. This not only ends the individual plot arc of the second novel (the arena) but sets up the third novel (the rebellion).
PLOT TWO – THE INDIVIDUAL ARC:
Unlike the intricate arc discussed above, the individual arc doesn’t have an overarching plot outline but rather focuses on three individual plot arcs that all relate and increase in tension to reach a climactic moment at the series end.
If you remember back to the first article in this writing series, we talked about The Starbound Trilogy. To refresh your memory, book one focuses on the characters of Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen, book two tells the story of Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac, and the third novel tells the story of Sofia Quinn and Gideon Merchant.
Ending each novel in this sort of series isn’t difficult, as all you have to do is simply end each individual arc the same way you would a normal book. The key to linking each novel through your ending, however, especially when they are individual plot arcs, is to just subtly hint at what’s to come.
Although each novel in the series focuses on an individual plot arc, they should all amount to the overarching plot in the end. Have your characters return in the last book that was in the first, and vice versa.
PLOT THREE – THE CONTINOUS ARC:
Many trilogy’s work as a single story that is broken into three pieces of work, however, have the same plot arcs that play out over the three books. There are no individual plot arcs in this particular plotting style. This can make ending each novel difficult. They mostly end on cliff-hangers, being that the conflict is unresolved until the last book.
Let’s take a look at the example I used, Lord of the Rings. The first book ends with Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee deciding to part ways with the fellowship in order to spare them from the power of the ring leaving them alone and extremely isolated. Book two ends with Frodo being taken by the enemy as Sauron’s forces prepare for war. Book three brings all that climax to a head and ends the series with Frodo destroying the ring, men winning the war, and everyone getting to return home.
Knowing when to end each individual novel in this sort of plot arc is not easy, but a simple trick that a lot of writers use is to either end it on a cliff-hanger, emotional moment, emotional or physical peril, or climactic moment.
HOW TO END THE SERIES:
Ending your series is a very bittersweet moment, and if you are anything like me then you planned your ending first! A while ago I actually wrote an article on 10 Ways to End Your Novel, and this still very much applies to a series also.
Here is a brief overview of how to end your series:
A Circular Ending:
A circular ending is a story that does a full circle and comes back to the beginning.
The Moral Ending:
The moral ending is an ending whereby you see the character’s growth throughout the novel and how far they have some.
The Surprise Ending:
A surprise ending is where the story takes us to a place we least expected. To plainly put it, it’s a twist, and sparks excitement or bewilderment.
The Capturing Emotion Ending:
The capturing emotion ending leaves the reader feeling emotional, whether that be happy or sad, for the characters and the story.
The Reflection Ending:
The reflection ending is an ending where the character looks at everything he/she has achieved, experiences, and gone through and reflects on how far they have come.
The Cliff-hanger Ending:
The cliff-hanger ending is very common in novel series and is an ending that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat.
The Humour Ending:
The humour ending is an ending that leaves the reader laughing at a line or an inside joke to the story.
The Question Ending:
The question ending is used in a lot of novel series as well and is an ending that leaves the reader thinking about what is going to happen next.
The Image Ending:
The image ending is an ending that puts the ‘show don’t tell rule’ to good use, and describes a scene.
The Dialogue Ending:
The dialogue ending is an ending the finished with dialogue from a character.
And that’s about everything you need to know about endings for your trilogy! I know it’s not easy coming up with the perfect ending, and sometimes it can be as hard as coming up with the beginning, but hopefully, this will act as a guide for you and help you nail your ending.
All finished. Let’s chat!
Have you got any other ideas for how to end your trilogy? Hit me up in the comments and let me know!