Monday, November 19, 2012

Planning the Trilogy--Guest Post by Paul Anthony Shortt

by Paul Anthony Shortt, @PAShortt

Thank you for having me, Elizabeth. Your blog is a constant source of wisdom which I try to apply to my work.

I’ve always loved trilogies. They just seem like the perfect storytelling format. You’ve got your opening, establishing the heroes and their challenges. Then the twisty middle where the villains retaliate and it seems like all may be lost. Finally, the big finish, the final showdown where we see if the heroes really can defeat the villains.

Like many kids of my generation, the first real trilogy I was exposed to was Star Wars. With The Empire Strikes Back I first saw the villains appear to win at the end of a story. This concept blew my mind and made me desperate to see what happened next. I felt for the heroes. I had suffered as the heroes had. I wanted to see them fight back. That’s a powerful feeling.

It’s a feeling I hope to capture with the story of Nathan Shepherd. While I’ve been promoting the release of Locked Within, I’ve also been working on the sequel, Forgotten Cause. Originally I had planned to write a 6-book series, feeling I needed that many books to properly tell the story.

But speaking with my publisher made me realise how turning the series into a trilogy could tighten up my storytelling and keep the emotions and stakes at their peak. I could introduce important characters sooner, reveal secrets of my setting, and keep the focus on Nathan Shepherd’s struggle against not only his enemies in this life, but the emotional demons of his past lives.

Changing from a 6-book series (a hexalogy) to a trilogy has dramatically changed how I need to plan the overall story. Instead of whole books of character development and angst, I have plans for concise, tense adventures where the characters must face their inner conflicts while facing high stakes. The fate of the world will hang in the balance, and it’s important that the characters’ internal challenges are of an appropriate level.

With Locked Within I introduce Nathan Shepherd, my hero, and the supernatural world he learns that he’s already a part of. He faces a monster connected to his past lives, which threatens innocent people all over New York.

In Forgotten Cause, I will explore more of this dark, sinister New York. Nathan will encounter people from past lives who may be friends or enemies, and he must confront decisions in a previous lifetime which have dire consequences for his current incarnation. This will likely be quite a dire story, appropriately dark for the middle point in the trilogy.

The final part in the story is tentatively titled Memory War, and will feature Nathan’s final battle against his enemies, bringing together allies from incarnations past and present. Nathan will have to call on all his skills and memories to figure out how to stop his nemesis, a reincarnated warrior named Athamar who bears an insatiable hatred of Nathan, from enacting a plan that will threaten the entire world.

All trilogies need to raise the stakes as the series goes on. The potential rewards, as well as the cost of failure, must increase to keep the reader focused.

What are some of your favourite trilogies? Personally, I think the best trilogy in film is the Back to the Future series. It fits the format perfectly, each installment building on the last.

About Locked Within: The supernatural realm and the mundane world have existed side by side since the dawn of time. Predators walk the streets, hidden by our own ignorance. Once, the city of New York was protected, but that was another age.

Now a creature emerges from the city's past to kill again, with no one to hear the screams of its victims. The lost and the weak, crushed under the heels of the city's supernatural masters, have given up hope.

But one man finds himself drawn to these deaths. Plagued by dreams of past lives, his obsession may cost him friends, loved ones, even his life. To stop this monster, he must unlock the strength he once had. He must remember the warrior he was, to become the hero he was born to be.

His name is Nathan Shepherd, and he remembers.
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A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. Jen is pregnant again and is expecting twins.