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Writing Technical Support

Mar 8, 2012

Five Simple Rules For Creating Your Serial

So… You Want To Create Your Own Serial

FIVE SIMPLE RULES FOR CREATING YOUR SERIAL

Whether you are an established author with a number of books under your belt or you are just starting out, you may find that this particular form of writing appeals to you. Writing serial fiction can not only produce imaginative and entertaining results– it can also help you to better perfect your craft.  Of course, there are no guarantees that creating and writing a serial will turn you into the next Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Stephen King (The Green Mile), or Armisted Maupin (Tales of the City)– but you will probably have a lot of fun trying!

Serials:  What Goes Into Them?

If you have Googled serial fiction, you will find that there are no shortage of ideas about how serials should be created.  Like most other crafts, it is generally wise to  know the basics and then to realize that for most rules there are exceptions.  In fact, it can be the exception which if  well crafted can become the blockbuster.

Some rules are definitely more important than others – we will start with those first.  Perhaps the most important of these is what has been called “pageturnability.”  How much does the serial force its reader to want to turn the page (or click to the next installment)?

We are certainly not the same world we were when serial fiction reached tremendous popularity in the 1800s.  Information has become so easy to obtain that we expect “the bottom line” analysis as soon as a question enters our head.  Many of us are products of the MTV generation where entertainment was broken down into small palatable segments like music videos.  We want our fix, but we like smaller, easier to digest portions.  Which brings us to our five simple rules:

RULE 1:  FORCE YOUR READER TO CRAVE YOUR NEXT PAGE
There are many rules that can be ignored or bent.  This is not one of them.  No matter how you tell your serial or the locations you use for its setting—you have to build your audience.   This is done by not just making your reader want to keep reading your serial—they have to crave it.   Remember, readers generally will not give you a lot of time to pull them into your story.  The faster that you fully engage them—the greater your serial’s readership will become.

RULE 2:  CREATE CHARACTERS THAT GROW, ENTERTAIN & ILLUMINATE
Serial fiction involves the creation of a Cast of Characters.  You must know each of these word beings to whom you give life intimately.  What do they look like?  What is their background?  Do they have an accent which influences their manner of speech?  And truth be told, not all characters are created equal.  Some characters will only occupy one scene, but as Mae West once said, “There are no small parts.  Only small actors.”  In essence, a character can be memorable for playing a small but pivotal part in a story.   Other characters will tend to dominate whenever they appear.  You will learn through working with your serial that principle characters who you thought would be likeable are not well received by your readers. Ironically, secondary characters who you thought were insignificant actually can become the characters that readers embrace the most.  Thus, a character conceived for only one scene may ultimately rise to get star billing.  We are a fickle world.  Roll with it.

Characters in a serial are like characters in all fiction.  They should make sense in their setting and if they don’t fit into their setting, there should be a reason why they appear.  The more that you know each one of your characters—including those who are only supporting players—the better you will be able to weave them into your serial.

RULE 3:  CREATE STORIES THAT UNFOLD,  CHANGE & HAVE STAMINA
Serial fiction offers the writer the freedom to create multiple story lines running simultaneously.  You may want to be careful how many stories you introduce at once or else you will confuse and ultimately lose your most valuable asset—your reader.

There are many arguments for having a serial which has already been thought out in advance as well as for those which develop one installment at a time.  Of course, the serial that has a beginning, middle, and ending already in its author’s head will make more sense as it progresses.  But the serial that comes to life one installment at a time may possess a feeling of spontaneity.  The most important part of story development for serials is that your serial’s storylines have stamina.   Hopefully, you will be working with your serial for numerous installments — make sure that your stories give you ample room to unfold plots and that they can keep moving just as fast in installment twenty-five as they do on their very first page.

RULE 4:  CARE ABOUT DETAILS BUT DON’T GET BOGGED DOWN WITH THEM
There is no question that the more detail you provide to your reader the more that they will be able to visualize your setting as well as the characters in it.  Think of yourself as a cave explorer wearing a hat with a light strapped on its front which illuminates your pathway.  The more details that you provide to your reader, the slower you will travel through the cave.  Without enough details you will race through the ride, but it may not be very memorable.

You need to achieve your own balance by including as many details as you believe are CRITICAL to your scene without slowing your scene down to a standstill.   Remember, how we said that some rules have exceptions?  This one definitely can be bent or broken depending on how skilled you are at weaving descriptions into your serial.

RULE 5:  READ YOUR WORK ALOUD AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE YOUR TIME AND EDIT
It is rare that the first draft of any work is ready for publication.  Most of us need to edit our work either for spelling, punctuation, or just to make it flow more smoothly.  Don’t be afraid to take your time.  Your serial is supposed to move quickly– that doesn’t mean you have to move quickly while you are creating it.  Read your serial aloud to yourself or if you have a friend or loved one who will serve as a sounding board, read it to this person as well.  Save ALL of your notes. They will be a good source to refer back to as you revise your drafts.  The more that you hear your own words –the more you will pick up where there maybe holes or even words that don’t make sense when placed together.

Best of luck as you begin writing your serial!