Best Sellers Are Coming in Threes
June 21, 2012
Stephen Woodfin has the right idea.
On a recent airplane flight, I was thumbing through a copy of USA Today and saw a four-column headline that reached out and slapped me.
The headline: Best sellers are coming in threes this spring.
The subhead: Trilogies can inspire loyalty, engagement.
The inspiration for The Revelation Trilogy did not come from the deep recesses of a troubled mind. It was not revealed in a vision or a sudden flash of dramatic insight.
All Stephen Woodfin had to do was read the latest issue of a newspaper or watch any of the prejudicial and opinionated versions of Cable news, and it was not a far stretch of the imagination to realize that a war is brewing between government and the self-righteous voice of religion. It’s simmering now. It’s coming to a boil. It could break out in violence at any moment.
The Revelation Trilogy works its way deep inside the premise of what might happen if a band of religious zealots plotted and implemented an attack to overthrow a government that its followers simply don’t trust anymore. Murder in the name of the Lord is not a new idea.
There are the godly who fear that the nation they love is losing those religious values and freedoms that made the country strong, powerful, and compassionate.
There are those who realize that religion is the most effective and powerful weapon they have to take down a government they don’t like. After all, the Old Testament is full of blood.
There are those who determine that the conflict, if nothing else, can satiate their ambition, their greed, and their unholy lust for power and money. No matter how much power and how many riches they acquire, it’s never enough. Hang on. It’s a wild and disturbing ride. The term breathless comes to mind.
Stephen Woodfin is right on target.
As the USA Today article points out: “For book publishers, the magic number seems to be three – as in trilogies. The evidence sits atop USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list: The top three spots belong to E. I. James’ erotic Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, followed by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games young-adult trilogy. Amanda Hocking became a publishing sensation thanks to her Trylie trilogy – Switched, Torn, Ascend.
Paul Bogaards, who handles publicity for the publishing giant Knopf, pointed out in the article: “Readers come to know the subjects and characters so well they become invested in them.” But he did admit: “I don’t think readers hunger for trilogies as much as they hunger for storytelling that they find deeply immersive and satisfying.”
Some stories can’t be told in one book. Readers prefer three.
A British blogger, Stephanie Butland, believes that a trilogy is the perfect format for authors to consider. A trilogy is not too short, nor is it too long. She says, “You can really understand the characters and the story in three books. You don’t have to panic when you reach the last fifty pages of a really great book because you know there’s more.”
Stephen Woodfin has given us more. The characters are memorable. Even those dastardly characters you don’t like insist on hanging around after the final word is read. You won’t be able to forget them for a long time.
The Revelation Effect is gripping.
The action races at a breakneck speed from one page to the next. Good guys become bad. Bad guys change. As many funerals as revivals are held across the land. The President is killed. The Secret Service is under suspicion. A nation is in chaos As Woodfin himself says, “The body count rises as faith and politics collide.”
It collides daily in the news.
It collides regularly from the pulpit.
It collides wherever two or three are gathered for coffee in the morning.
Nowhere does it collide more dramatically than in Last One Chosen, Next Best Hope, and The Revelation Effect.
Woodfin has met the criteria. He has the three good books.
But no one knows what lurks in a far corner of his imagination. Somewhere down there in a maze of words, phrases, ideas, and fears, there may be a fourth brewing. If so, the novel will break out and write itself. Woodfin merely scatters the words on paper.
Then again, he’s probably smart enough to stop at three.