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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Until next time..."

Y'know, I think the very best thing about serialized fiction is not the stories, but the endings. In serials, there's a major delay (i.e. longer than turning a page) between chapters. This has the unique effect of putting a real, human-time emotional context into the reader's experience. The reader gets to mull over the story thus far before the next part is available to read. (And the irony of the delay of gratification thereof in contrast with the major resurgence of serialized fiction on the instant-access Internet is astounding, to say the least.)

So, modern serial storytellers, taking a page from their predecessors notebooks, have recognized the value of the cliffhanger ending. Dickens had it to the nth degree when his stories had people crowding the docks where printings of his latest installment were to be unloaded, calling out to the sailors about the fate of a beloved character. Of course, Chuck's delays were considerably longer than a day or two, and the selection of content for readers was waaaaaaaaaaaay smaller, but still, current serial writers have a lot to gain from their own unresolved endings.

Alexandra Erin, one the leading trailblazers of the Internet fiction movement, gave me two cliffhangers today: one in Tales of Mu, and one in Tribe. One of the nice things about Lexy's cliffhangers is that she uses them sparingly. Plenty of her episodes, while building and leading to a final climax, are also self-contained and self-resolving within their context, not relying on so obviously dramatic an ending. So, when I got these two (especially the one in Mu), I was quite pleased.

Jeffrey Blair Latta, over on his excellent Pulp and Dagger webzine, wrote an editorial about the cliffhanger ending. Specifically, he talks about falling (literally) as a tool to use to help stimulate the serial writer. I read it a couple of years ago, and the ideas he presented still stick with me. If I ever get to the point where I'm reliably producing enough fiction that I could support some serialized fiction without disappointing my legions of fans as they crowd the wharfs of the Web, I'll probably follow his advice.

In the mean time, as I come to the end of this blog entry, I'm recognizing that non-fiction blogs don't really lend themselves to cliffhangers. Or maybe they do?

"It couldn't hurt to try, could it?" Hydrargentium wondered, turning away from the screen in response to a strange noise behind him....

Or maybe not.



At 1:34 PM, May 13, 2011 , Anonymous Mazzon said...

You, Sir, are a loutish cockalorum, this worm cast you call a blog is hardly worth the internet it's written on and I say good day to you!

(You did ask for it...)

At 5:11 PM, May 13, 2011 , Blogger Hydrargentium said...

Of course I did! And glad I did, too. Gave me a good laugh ("hardly worth the internet it's written on") and gives me the first comment on this blog since I can't remember when.

And besides, you did call me "Sir", so that kind of softens the blow, right?



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