There are times when my thought-streams puddle and pool together and I must babble and type them out to free up some mental space in my head. And yes okay now that I’ve written that sentence I realize how weird it sounds…cool. Onward!
When it comes to a book trilogy you have a beginning (Book 1), a middle (Book 2), and an end (Book 3). But what I want to discuss this fine overcast morning is Book 2: The middle child of books.
‘Middle Child Syndrome’ is a debatable theory but it generally holds true when it comes to books and so I’ve come up with a theory/diagnosis of sorts I like to call ‘Middle Book Syndrome.’ The first book knocks the breath out of you with its magic, ingenuity, and newness. It’s the first time you step into its world and the first time you meet the characters. You know nothing or very little and barely have time to form any expectations to be filled or deflated because it’s all new and charging forward on the spark of an author’s brewing idea.
The second book kind of kicks a bit of dirt around with its toes and resembles more of a long rickety terrifying bridge stretched out across a vast cavern landing you in book three which will either be a mind-blowing conclusion or a flat disappointment. Book One was a successful beginning building up expectation in its readers for the sequel. No pressure but yeah actually a lot of pressure. You don’t want to strike out too early. Often one has an idea and knows how to start and then their idea grows and they know how they want it to end but ugh that stupid middle book! You want to get from point A to point B but what the heck do you put in-between to connect them‽ (high-five for the interabang)
It’s that middle book that always makes me nervous because it tends to teeter between continuing its predecessor’s upward momentum charging forward with its sword lifted on high bellowing “For Narnia!” or slipping down that oh so slippery slope of ‘meh’, “wait-what-are you serious?” eyes, and a face-palm…like Bella Swan on a patch of ice or young Neville Longbottom being frantically tossed about on his first ride on a broomstick.
The author has to create a journey that can span a whole trilogy, a story that will grow with each book not just stretch across them. They must figure out a path to avoid puttering about grasping at straws and falling into that oh so common quagmire of ‘Middle Book Syndrome.’ That second book must somehow take the electrifying snowball of energy conjured up from the first book and roll it and grow it in Book Two leaving the reader not just wanting that final book but needing it. It cannot simply suspend the reader’s hunger but must fill them with a clenching desire to see the journey through to the end. That sweaty, jittery, desperate feeling of “I must know what happens next!”
Ah MBS, so many books fall prey even if only a teensy bit. Generally a middle book with only mild MBS spends its time full of re-grouping, re-evaluating, tumbling around theories, and then takes in a deep breath to- but then rolls in Book Three. It can still be an awesome book but when you look back you realize you blasted through an excellent book but where not much really happened. Book One was the attack, Book Two is the re-grouping, Book Three is the Battle. Master the middle book and you shall master the world…or something like that.
P.S. Oh my word. MBS is like teenage-hood. Book One is a hilarious, devious, imaginative, or at least overall entertaining child (dude, kids have imaginations for DAYS and they’re shiny and new fresh-outta-the-box beings) and Book Three is like a concluded adult with at least some of their life together but at least having gained a general direction and having wisdom and learned-lessons from their childhood and teenage-hood (I hear high school and/or college is the common low point but dang middle schoolers can be hands-down the worst). And so yeah, Book freaking Two is like the teenager full of rebellion, contradictions, romance, struggles, stubbornness, identity-issues, and ridiculousness. Raising a teenager is like guiding a ship through treacherous waters. Ha! Metaphors, similes, and illustrations are fun…yeah okay time to end this post.