What is a serial fiction?
Although fairly rare today, serial fiction is the oldest form of published fiction. In fact, much of what we think of a “literature” was originally created in serial form. For example:
The Arabian nights or One thousand and One Nights was published as a multi-episodic serial.
Most of Charles Dickens work were published – one chapter at a time – as magazine serials. Dickens is the only author who never edited his serials when they became books.
Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was written in serial form.
As the working class learned to read in the 1800s, they read serial fiction. Mysteries were popular. Vampires were more popular than they are today. Romantic realism held the hearts and minds of England and the Americas through Dickens works.
Serial fiction was converted to the movies in the 1930s and 1940s. Radio was a kind of hey day serial fiction as people sat around their radios to listen to the next weeks chapter of their favorite program. Television programs, particularly mini-series, became a kind of serial fiction with long running series such as the X-files moving the plot forward one episode at a time.
I was introduced to serial fiction through the San Francisco Chronicle and Tales of the City. Armistead Maupin had a delicious way of incorporating real places, real events with his beloved fictional characters. The stories shifted through people’s lives in a realism that was refreshing. As a serial, Maupin was able to address AIDS, homosexuality, and San Francisco politics as it was really happening. Armistead Maupin wrote tales of the city from 1976 until the mid-1980s.
Why is serial fiction different?
Serial fiction is written and published one chapter at a time. This gives a serial fiction immediacy, rawness and realism that’s not available in a story told as a whole, such as a book.
Books, on the other hand, are written, plotted and diagrammed as a whole. On the most basic level, mistakes or decisions made in one chapter can easily be fixed before publication of the book.
Many novels and short stories have been serialized. This is called “serialized fiction.” However, few authors have actually written serials. Dickens was the master. Maupin wrote this way. Stephen King tried his hand at a true serial with the Green Mile. The Green Mile was published, and written, as six small segments. They were eventually published into one novel.
Is Denver Cereal a novel published as a serial?
No. Denver Cereal is a serial fiction. I create chapters and submit for editing on Mondays. They are returned to me on Friday. My editors worked on my books as a whole 100,000+ words at a time. With Denver Cereal, my editor reads the serial one chapter at a time.
I have written other books and could serialize these books. However, the joy of a true serial calls to me. I’m enjoying the immediacy and interaction of real people in my fictional world.
I have some idea what’s going to happen next, but I don’t have anything plotted out. What happens to these characters is surprising to me as well. The characters are guiding the way here. I am simply creating a play ground for them to play.
Once again, thanks for reading.
(edited July, 2014)
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