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I have plans for a fantasy trilogy in which the main characters defeating the threat in each book simply makes way for the new threat of the next book. This way, the main characters can continue to grow and take on more powerful threats as the story progresses.

The way I have laid out the story so far ends with each book having a resolution. For example, the characters defeat the evil cult and celebrate. I plan on having this play into a twist, however, when they find out the cult actually was trying to prevent a catastrophic event from occurring that now the characters have to deal with personally.

The question is, where would it be ideal to reveal a twist of this nature? Should I reveal it at the end of the book where they destroy the cult so that the reader is more likely to pick up the next book? Or should I reveal it towards the beginning of the successive book where they are going to actually have to clean up after the mess?

Essentially, I am not sure whether leaving such a gaping cliff-hanger between novels is a good idea, because it could lessen the sense of accomplishment from the recent resolution.

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That is a tricky question, there is a good reason for a cliffhanger at the end of the first book to increase the interest in the second one, but that might be hard if it's your first book sale.

I think the best way to go about it, at least in the case of your first book, is to hint that there is something bigger in the background. Both through out the book and at the end, leaving the readers wondering what's really going on, then have the big twist in first chapter or two of the second book. That way, if the worst happens and the second book gets cut, you still have a whole story.

On the other hand, I would go the other way with the second book. End that one with the direct twist to that leads into the third book. Of course even that may not be what it seems.

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Definitely make sure to keep hinting towards a twist, so that the reader doesn't feel jerked around when it is finally revealed. Give away just enough so the reader can look back and say "I knew that was coming" without him or her actually knowing it. –  justkt Nov 22 '10 at 21:08
    
I agree completely with this. Hint at it fairly heavily throughout the first book without potentially giving it away; when it becomes clear in the second book, a reader (or at least a reader like me) will be totally pumped and wanting to read more. –  Maulrus Nov 23 '10 at 1:32
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"surprising, but inevitable" –  MGOwen Nov 23 '10 at 5:45
    
'xactly: hint. But do not overdo it. "Heavy" hinting can be overdone. Do not use a bit mallet to hit your readers over the head with. Do not drop 16t weights on your reader either. I personally (I know I'm subjective) don't like to be treated as an imbecile. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Dec 10 '10 at 14:29
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I think your idea is perfect as the end of the first book.

There are bad cliffhangers, which do not end the story satisfyingly, because they have no real end. That's what disappoint your readers. But if you have a real ending for the plot (defeating the cult) and show the reader "Oops, maybe what they did was not that bad and now someone has to clean up the mess", then the twisting end satisfies, surprises and makes the reader curious for the next book.

If you mention from the beginning, that it is a trilogy/series (what not all books do), I do not see any problem putting the twist at the end of the book.

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Put it at the end of book one. If there is no book 2, it becomes an open-ended story. If there is a book 2, you can continue as planned.

As usual, keep the 3 act structure in each book and in each chapter: Exposition, rising action, climax.

[EDIT] Try to come up with something different for the second book; readers will think you try to trick them into buying book 3 if you reuse the idea. Like "I can't believe they fell for the same trap again."

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