Commuters everywhere know that a brief snippet of prose can briefly free them from the oppression of the rat race. Letting your mind wander through a literary landscape is always preferable to keeping it confined in the jumping metal tin of a sweaty train carriage. The more immersed in a literary experience you are, the better. With snippets of a commute, it can be hard to remain engaged dipping in and out of a lengthy novel, whilst short stories offer no continuity over time, little call to keep going back for more. The answer? Serial fiction.
What is serial fiction?
Fiction that is released in an episodic fashion, similar to a TV serial. It gives a long story in short, self-contained chapters. It’s designed to be read on its own, at regular intervals. Taking this into consideration, the writer designs each chapter to be engaging in its own right, with the tight hooks and twists of short fiction but the ongoing arcs of a lengthy story. You get the best of both worlds – continually developed story and character presented in individually enjoyable chunks. Each commute can be a new but connected experience.
The author of serial fiction is in good company, it’s not to be taken lightly – some of the best authors in history serialised what we now know as classic novels. Dickens revolutionised the publishing industry with the success of his serial publications, his first, The Pickwick Papers, being one of the most famous serialised novels in history. Other classic serials have included Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and more recently The Bonfire of the Vanities, originally published in Rolling Stone magazine. The serial format only benefited their eventual result as classic literature.
How serial fiction produces good writing
Personally, I’ve always found short fiction difficult to write. When I delve into a story I want to develop it as much as possible. I’ve dabbled with serial fiction as an attempt to hone my short fiction skills whilst still developing a longer story. Alas, my first attempts turned into another novel, but times have changed now, the internet is a vast stomping ground for serial fiction. Primarily because it provides the one thing that really makes serial fiction effective, and what I lacked in writing sequences of short stories: an audience.
Readers of a serial can genuinely become involved in the plot, discussing and even influencing story arcs over time. It gives the author the opportunity to receive regular feedback on their writing, if they are willing to listen to readers’ comments, and they can adapt their writing to suit the public. Equally important, the audience provides the pressure of a regular deadline, as readers need to be regularly fed to keep interested. Serial fiction has to keep moving, cannot be allowed to stagnate, keeps the fiction fresh. It also keeps it contained, as the writer has to capture interest in every instalment.
The ongoing audience involvement is also serial fiction’s main danger. The writer may need to rush. May need to release parts of the story before they feel ready. It is good practice, to prevent perfectionism, but it is an unforgiving market. And with the ever-increasing presence of writing online, a high standard must be maintained if a serial is to succeed.
Serial fiction online
Serial fiction on the web is nothing new, now. The Spot was a massive online serial as early as 1995, and there are countless writing websites out there that encourage regular updates (like the monstrously large writing.com). Blogs are crawling with serial fiction, too. But with so much available, the discerning commuter may want to stick to their more reliably edited and easily stored eBooks. What the commuter needs is a site that sifts through the quality serial fiction. One I’ve found is Jukepop Serial, a site that hosts my serial Pilgrimage of the Damned. They got it all explained here. It’s a site that not only encourages reader participation, but rewards authors who satisfy their audience. And that’s just what we need to encourage ongoing, engaging fiction.
As a reader, sample their stories and fill your commute with prose specifically designed to be consumed in small snippets. Join the community and get involved in creating better fiction for everyone. Encourage and engage in fiction from rising new writers. Oh, and feel free to vote on my story, I’ve been a bit lax in building an audience!