Series and serials

It seems to me that one of the strengths of the Friday Fictioneers group is its flexibility. The rules are there (use the picture, stick to 100 words, read other posts), but some people write poems, others prose. Some are religious about the 100 word limit (hand up!) while others use it as a guideline. It took me a long time to embrace Rochelle’s suggestion to take the picture as “Inspiration not Illustration” but now it’s my motto (although I never seem to get as far from it as she manages; I guess my muse is still stuck within the proverbial box!).

One issue that seems to be exercising the group right now is whether the stories should stand alone or be part of a serial. Personally, I prefer to write individual pieces. There are two reasons for this.

1)      I hate to constrain my writing. Once I start, I infinitely prefer to just let things flow, so I wouldn’t like the constraint of a weekly prompt to incorporate.

2)      I write enough long fiction; I use FF (and the other prompts I follow) to stretch my writing imagination with different settings, narrators and plots.

I sometimes break my own rules. I have a few characters whose stories I don’t feel I’ve told yet. So occasionally, where a prompt reminds me of them, I come back to them. There’s no order or unity to the pieces – they just come from the same universe. They are, if you like, a series rather than a serialisation.

Others choose their own path. The posts from Craig Townsley’s “Owl and Racoon” series are some of my favourite FF stories, while I can’t deny that Joe Owens’ serialised murder mystery had me clicking back each week to see who got accused next.

Ultimately, unless our Great Leader starts imposing restrictions, I think it’s a case of “whatever works for you”. If the writing’s good, it’s good either way around and maybe if the aim is to build up a following, people (outside the FF circle) are more likely to come back for the next stage of a story.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

11 responses to “Series and serials

  1. Ooh, thanks for the shout-out.

  2. I’ve been trying to figure this one out myself lately! Though I don’t tend to write series for FF, I definitely do for other prompts—I feel like the introduction of a constraint part way through a story makes for a good exercise in plotting, forcing me to take a path of greater resistance through the story than I might have otherwise.

    But my real question is related to how to present a series (as various links? as a single running story on one page?) and whether or not any readers, especially internet readers, actually have the patience or the desire to come back again and again to read 200 or 300 words at a time. I’m starting to lean toward “no” as an answer, but I really wish they would :p. Sorry to leave a novel in your comments section; this has just been on my mind lately.

  3. Helena Hann-Basquiat

    Am I a bad person if I say that series/serials are contrary to the spirit of trying to tell a story in 100 words? There is a certain skill involved in telling something self-contained, with no previously defined characters or a dot dot dot at the end, stipulating that the story will continue. What is the point in writing 100 words, if only to say at the end that it is NOT the end.
    BUT — that’s just my philosophy on the matter. I feel like it is a bit of a cheat to build on something previously established and present it in the guise of a piece of flash fiction, where the trick is to quickly introduce a character, setting or concept and sell it based on the strength of those 100 words alone.
    But it’s not like I have a strong opinion on the matter, darling!

  4. I’ve thought about this a lot and haven’t come to a definite answer. I tend to agree with Helena, although of course there aren’t any real “rules” about series and everyone can do as he or she wishes. I do 100 words and although I once had a character I’d used before, my second story didn’t depend on the first at all. I read all the stories each week, whether or not they’re single or part of a series and like you, I’ve enjoyed various series/serials.

    I’d like to see each week’s story be more or less complete in and of itself even if it’s part of a series. When each installment is only once a week and presented among 80+ different stories, I have enough to read and am unlikely to go back through a number of links to re-read the background of the current story. If there’s a new story each day, it’s easier for my peanut-sized brain to follow and remember. But that’s not how Friday Fictioneers works. I’d also like to see something happen each week and feel that there’s some progress towards the end of the story.

    I’ve waffled on either side of this discussion enough. But thanks for bringing this up. I’m glad we as Fictioneers have the flexibility to do a variety of things!


  5. First of all let me thank you for the mention Jennifer. I have always enjoyed writing fiction and suppose I have just developed the ability to form a long story with a little morsel of an idea or photo.

    I realize that Fictioneering is ideally a one shot deal. I have no problem with that concept. In fact I really enjoyed the last prompt. I am stuck on a tour bus riding home today buylt intend to respond to this weeks prompt.

    Can u help me? I need some one to add my post to the linky as I cannot using just my Kindle Fire.

  6. Dear Jen,

    It seems that Helena and Janet have pretty much voiced my thoughts but I’m going to go ahead and weigh in on the topic anyway.

    There’s a reason I preface the rules with the same challenge to write a COMPLETE story with beginning, middle and END. While I truly prefer that writers follow this challenge to the letter I don’t want be the rule Nazi. To be fair a few of the series have been entertaining. But there again, it’s because each 100 word installment stands on its own.

    I’ll confess that if understanding a series installment means I have to go back and read a previous one I won’t do it.

    Since October when Madison turned Friday Fictioineers over to me we’ve doubled in size so trying to keep track of a series is too much to ask.

    Thank you, Jen for posting this.



    • In response to all these comments…
      Personally, I think there is a big difference between a series and a serialisation. In a series, each story is complete of itself and like most of you, I think that is how flash fiction in general and FF in particular ought to be.
      By contrast, a serialisation requires me to have read the previous parts and (at least to some extent) remembered them. As I don’t get round every story any more, I often find myself falling in half-way through the serialised piece, which then leaves me the dilemma of whether to read back or not. In reality, this isn’t 100 word fiction at all.
      By way of analogy, I can watch any old episode of CSI and follow the plot. I might get more from it if I have watched it before and know the characters, but I can still enjoy it on its own. Whereas, if I try to jump into the middle of Lost, I’m going to need a recap of what’s happened, who these people are and why on earth they are faffing about on a weird island with a load of wild boars. (No prizes for guessing how I prefer to spend my tv-time!)
      Ultimately this is Rochelle’s rodeo and we should follow whatever rules she sets. If people don’t like the rules, there are lots of other prompts on the web. Personally, I’m glad the FF rules work for me.

  7. I love the FF challenge and reading the varied responses (I have managed the epic read of reading everyone’s stories twice now!) Kudos to Rochelle for managing that every week!
    I agree that essentially they should stand alone and personally I struggle to keep the serialised stories in my head. The next episodes don’t always make sense.
    What I have found from the 100 word entries is some of them lend themselves to more story and I am currently investing time to complete 3 short stories stemming from the FF posts. (1 of those might be serialised on my blog) – Serialised stories work but personally for FF challenges I like to read a complete beginning – middle – and end – after all that IS the challenge of writing FLASH fiction!

  8. I agree with you pretty much for my own stories, Jennifer. For others, that’s their deal, if they are comfortable writing a series for their FF, as long as each one can stand alone… not easy to do. If it’s not entertaining or hard to follow, I probably won’t try. I thought Joe’s murder mystery was great fun, especially since I was in it… you too as I recall… and I love Lisa’s Angelique which is kind of a loose series. She was the first one to use a recurring character in FriFic… her stories definitely stand on their own. I use Ethel and Cheryl in Trifecta often… but that’s not a series… just two recurring old broads.

    For me a Drabble is a Drabble… One Hundred Words… no more, no less.

  9. Late to the party again. 😦 My two penn’orth as my Gran used to say: In the main I’m not in favour of serialisations on Friday Fictioneers. This is partly due to my having internet restrictions at various times, and if I can’t remember the plot, I’d use up a lot of my mobile allowance back-tracking. So mostly I just avoid those I know are serialising though there have been one or two I’ve become hooked on (Reaper and Angelique for instance). But I also feel a bit disappointed – as if half the aim of the exercise has been wasted. When I look at the photo prompt I start with a blank slate – plot…characters…genre are all at my disposal. I wouldn’t want to start on the basis of “how can I work this prompt into my serial” , not just because I’d lose this total freedom but also because I’d lose the flexibility to take the original story (the serialised one) where I want to take it. And I probably wouldn’t have embarked upon something lengthy if I didn’t have an idea where I wanted it to go.
    I agree with what others have said about the essence of flash fiction, complete arc, beginning middle and end, characterisation etc so I won’t elaborate on that aspect. And I also appreciate the flexibility we have, and the work Rochelle puts in. 🙂

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