Upheaval in a Story

When writing a long series, it helps to do an upheaval for your characters.  It doesn’t have to be all of them, but shaking up the life of a few in a story can help their progress.  Even if they take a step back, it will make them stronger as a character.  This helps keep them fresh too.

In Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue, several characters get a shock to their system through revelations and disasters. This brings a few plotlines to a head as well and many of the heroes and villains won’t be the same by the end.  I’ve found that this also creates a sense of meeting them again in future books.  At the very least, it takes a few stories to repair the damage and bring the characters back to their center.  Yet it will never be the same after these kinds of events.  This is why I like upheaval sections of a long story because it shakes everything up.  I feel re-energized and excited to see what’s going to happen next.

This isn’t something you only find in series too.  In a trilogy, this tends to be the the second story with a rough finale.  Empire Strikes Back is a good example.  The point of such a story is that it sets up the next stage of the adventure, dislodges characters from becoming entirely stable, and closes up some earlier subplots.  It’s very important that this is something that answers questions instead of solely making new mysteries.  Now I’ve seen this in solitary books too, which can get tricky.  These tend to be bigger works to allow for time to gain stability in the main story, lose it, and then regain it for the ending.  Many times I’ve read stories that do a final hour disruption that doesn’t give enough time for true closure.  So you have to be careful in this situation.

So, what do you think of ‘upheaval’ stories that rock a series?  Do you have any favorites?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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27 Responses to Upheaval in a Story

  1. Star Wars has to one of the best examples I know. I like the idea of upheaval. This is what keeps the pages turning for the reader.

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  2. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    When reading a long series with central characters what is your opinion when they get involved in ‘upheaval’ story lines that change their direction perhaps in the plot? Charles E Yallowitz​ would like your opinion.

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  3. Lord of the Rings also spring to mind, with the Fellowship of the Ring breaking up around the middle. Mind you, I know that it’s a trilogy, but I suspect modern authors would have broken up the books to half a dozen smaller novels.

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  4. It seems like that is pretty common in a trilogy. The second volume is the one where the bad guys win. Maybe it speaks more to my psyche, but it’s usually the best one too.

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  5. tjtherien says:

    I am constantly upheaving my characters yet I keep them true to their core in essence…I’ve done it in each of my Scrolls novel so far and in my stand alone romance novel one character goes through a major upheaval through chapters 4-7 and another character goes through a major upheaval around chapter 15

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  6. MRS N, the Author says:

    I like upheaval, especially in a long series. It keeps me coming back for more. Phillip Pullman did it and it really made it interesting for me. Without upheaval, I tend to not stay with a series. I get bored otherwise and feel like I’m re-reading the same story over and over.

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  7. noelleg44 says:

    The Harry Potter series was much longer than a trilogy, but upheavals certainly happened at regular intervals. Mysteries definitely require upheavals to keep the excitement going – I usually plan for three to four per book.

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  8. Sue Coletta says:

    I, too, like upheavals in a series. Makes me want to read the next book, and the next, and the next…

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  9. This is something I’ve noticed as a longtime comic reader. If a series is popular it will go on for a really long time, and the writers do have to shake things up at intervals so that characters aren’t just a little too comfortable with themselves. Sometimes I’m irritated by the change, or a character I like is out of the picture, but I understand why they need to do it.

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  10. Jack Flacco says:

    One of the biggest upheavals twists is from The Transformers franchise where in the second movie one of the lead characters is strewn on the dirt with little hope of their revival. The music, the theme of living once again, and the power that comes from the scene where the words, “I love you.” make an appearance is pretty incredible stuff. Great story, even if some folks don’t like it!

    BTW, love Linkin Park’s “In the End”. One of my all-time favorites. I once had that song playing on repeat for a couple of hours while I fleshed out a scene from a story I was working on. Great song!

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    • The music video inspired one of the regions in my book. Though I don’t think I can do the flying whales.

      I only made it halfway through that movie. The kid threatened to make an early debut, so we had to run. One thing that confused me about those movies is that I couldn’t always tell the difference between all the Decepticons. Drove me a little nuts.

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