A serial is a series of episodes – or short stories – that are connected to tell a larger story.
Must Read TV
Serials are actually a lot like a TV series, which themselves vary a lot in type. Series like Law & Order and House are more self-contained, with only a few character storylines carrying over from episode to episode. Series like Lost or Heroes would be difficult to watch out of order because the storylines carry more strongly, sometimes with cliffhangers, sometimes not.
Some readers like the week-by-week suspense of Must Watch TV; others would rather wait until the season is done and get it from netflix so they can watch it back-to-back. Likewise, some readers enjoy the suspense of reading a serial episode-by-episode as they’re released. Others would rather wait until the entire serial is complete and read it all at once. Either is fine!
Is a Serial a New Idea?
Ebook serials are a new thing, because ebooks are a new thing – but serials have been around since Charles Dickens wrote and released Great Expectations (self-published through his own literary magazine!) in 6,000 word “installments” every week for nine months. Readers today aren’t accustomed to reading in serial format because publishing serials was restricted to magazines, which didn’t have wide circulation. Now with ebooks, the cost of transmission is low and the distribution is wide. Ebooks have revived the short story form! But for readers raised on novels, who crave longer works and more in-depth stories, serials are the next natural step.
Is a Serial a Novel Cut Into Pieces?
No. A serial is not a chopped up novel, just like a TV episode is not a chopped up movie. It’s a different way of telling stories. In a way, it’s more demanding to write than novels – you need to immediately draw the reader in, you have to reach some kind of reader-satisfaction-level by the end of the episode (even if you have a cliff-hanger), and you have to maintain that pace and storytelling arc over multiple episodes. But all that hard work on the part of the author makes it (potentially) more enjoyable for the reader.
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Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as a much as she can handle.