Why We Write Serial Fiction

I was recently chatting with an academic friend about The Filliquian Chronicle, and I was describing how we’ve structured the narrative. “In essence,” I said, “it’s structured a bit like a television series, so that each installment is somewhat like an episode, with several of them grouped together in an arc that resembles a television season. All of the seasons will then add up into a cohesive and coherent whole.” While I expected my friend to give me at least a bit of pushback–for comparing such widely different media as the written word and television, if for nothing else–to my surprise she actually thought that made sense. And besides, she pointed out, it might make it even easier to one day convert our written story into a screenplay for a television series (isn’t that the dream?)

While I’d come up with the television metaphor sort of on the spur of the moment, the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that achieving a sort of television effect was exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. We wanted to create a story in which readers could truly immerse themselves but also enjoy piecemeal. Admittedly, at first our motivation was simple enthusiasm: we wanted to get our work out into the world as soon as we could while also adhering to our policy standards (i.e., giving our readers the sort of high-quality reading experience that they could expect from a book published via a more traditional method). But as we continued on, we found that this format actually suited our process and our vision.

At first glance, it might seem a bit counterintuitive to write and publish an epic in a serial form. It’s one thing, after all, to see one produced on television which, as a form, has become increasingly serialized. (It’s worth pointing out that, as Game of Thrones has shown us, the serialized epic isn’t always as successful as we might like it to be). It’s quite another to take a story and break it up into several chunks that have to all be read in order to make sense of the whole thing. It’s important to remember, though, that this actually used to be a lot more common, and most people are probably aware that many of the great works of 19th Century fiction (especially several of the works of Charles Dickens) were published in serial form. (Can you tell that one of us has a graduate degree in English?)

Furthermore, we like to think that the way that we’ve structured the narrative makes sense and adheres to our vision of what the story would look like and how the characters would develop while also remaining pleasurable to read for our potential readers. We want you to emerge from reading each installment having learned a lot more about the character, while also feeling like the plot has advanced in a measurable away. As paradoxical as it sounds, we’ve actually come to think that publishing in this serial form might help us avoid the sort of narrative bloat that all too frequently takes over other works of epic fantasy fiction.

Indeed, part of the reason that Kellen and I decided to publish this series through Amazon–rather than through more traditional methods of publishing–was because we knew that the traditional model is not very receptive to new ways of doing things. It would be hard enough to get a mainstream fantasy publisher to take our little erotic epic seriously, let alone agree with us that a serial mode of storytelling was the way to go. They’d probably want us to adhere to the traditional 600-page epic and, while we certainly have some of those planned for the future (in a different universe than The Filliquian, though connected to it in a strange way), that just wasn’t what we wanted to do with this story. It’s just lucky for us that we now live in a world where there exist so many other outlets for us to pursue our artistic vision.

What’s more, we’re also working on several short stories set in the same universe–and in some cases sharing the same characters–that we plan on publishing as small add-ons, either for those who simply love of our world and want to spend more time in it and/or for those who simply can’t wait for the next installment. These little stories are more like vignettes, stories that help to flesh out what has already taken place, giving you, the reader, a little more perspective.

We hope that as we publish each successive entry in The Filliquian Chronicle that more and more people find themselves drawn into this world. While each installment can in theory be read and enjoyed on its own, it’s also true that you’ll only really be able to gasp the fullness of our vision if you read all of them. To use another media metaphor. Think of what we’re doing as a little like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Sure, you can watch any of the films and enjoy them, but you’ll really only get the most pleasure out of it if you embrace the whole thing.

In the near future, we hope to be able to bring you a new entry of the series once a month. It was, as you might recall, originally a bi-weekly schedule, but we found that that just wasn’t possible to maintain on our respective schedules. We’re hoping, though, that with a once-a-month schedule that we’ll be able to be a bit more consistent. Look at it this way: you’ll always have something from us to be reading!

What are your thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of publishing in a serial format? Is this something that you think other writers of fantasy should look into doing, or do you think that something is lost when you move away from the one big book model? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. We love to hear from our readers!

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