Tag Archives: Mary Pletsch

Episodic Vs Sequential: TV Shows and Novel Series

TV storytelling has changed with the advent of VCRs, DVDs and streaming services. In the golden age of TV, it was much more common for each episode of a TV show to be a self-contained story.

The reason is simple: showrunners couldn’t presume that viewers had been able to watch the previous episodes. If you were busy during the show’s airing time, then you missed the show. So, it made sense for each episode to stand alone. Title sequences introduced new viewers to the show’s characters, theme and mood. Even if you’d never seen a show before, you could get a pretty good idea what it was about before the day’s episode started. (And title sequences are getting shorter these days, or being left out entirely, now that most viewers no longer need them to learn about the show they’re about to see.)

The problem with episodic storytelling is that it’s more difficult to show long-term character development, or to give events permanent consequences. In its purest form, the end of the episode presses the reset button, returning the characters to the status quo at the beginning of the next episode. Still, some shows developed a certain sense of continuity: origin episodes, introduction of new characters or departure of old ones, key events in season finales.

With the advent of the VCR, people could record shows and watch them later at their convenience. And now, with streaming services, it’s become common for viewers to “binge” on a show and watch the entire season over the course of a few days.

(This is not to say that the golden age of TV didn’t have serials–soap operas, anyone?–or that there isn’t great episodic TV being made right now. )

But general trends changed when it became easier for people to keep up with their favourite shows. When data suggested that people enjoyed viewing shows in a single sitting (or two or three), showrunners naturally made shows catering to those kind of viewing habits. There’s now a strong trend towards “bingeable” shows – long running serials that tell a multi-thread story over the course of a season, and an even bigger story over the course of a series. Actions have consequences, and characters grow and change – but it’s rare for a viewer to pick a random episode in the middle of a series just to “check it out,” now that it’s easier to start at the beginning.

When you’re writing a novel series, which model do you want to follow?

In part, it depends on genre. For example, if you’re writing a category romance novel series, it’s often expected that a new reader should be able to pick up a book at any point in the series and enjoy the story. Additionally, romance stories derive their tension from showing how the hero and heroine get together–tension that’s hard to show once they’re an established couple. As a result, category romance series have developed a certain pattern. Each book in the series takes place in the same world, but each book (usually) focuses on a new hero and heroine. The supporting characters are often either the heroes/heroines of previous books, or future hero/heroines of upcoming stories. As a result, fans are able to return to a world they love, while new readers won’t be lost if they aren’t familiar with the supporting characters from previous books, and the primary tension is still focused on watching a couple overcome their obstacles to be together. However, this formula makes it difficult to show character relationships growing and changing beyond the book that the characters “star” in.

On the other hand, some series all but require you read them in order, or you’ll be lost continuity-wise. For myself, I love a big, ongoing, developing story where characters’ actions have consequences, and the plot unfolds based on the choices the characters made previously. But this technique makes it harder for new readers to “jump in” in the middle.

And some series walk a middle line. Each book is a self-contained arc, but if you put them together, you’ll also see a series-long story arc developing. For example, in some mystery series, a new mystery gets solved in each book, but as the series progresses, the main characters change, develop, and grow, giving the series a sense of continuity and ongoing development.

In large part, it depends on what you as a writer want to do. Do you want to write a series where each book focuses on a different character in the same universe? Do you want the flexibility to add “new adventures” if the series takes off?

Or do you have a long-term vision for a story that’s too long for just one (or three, or more) books to hold? Do you want to show a character growing and changing over the long term, and do you believe that you can convince audiences to care about this character, to choose to spend time in their company over and over again?

If the first book in a series hooks a reader, they’re likely to come back for more—particularly when they feel that the story is “going somewhere” and that each book “matters” because events have consequences. But there’s also something to be said for a format that’s welcoming to new readers, and doesn’t require them to put Book 4 back on the shelf and go looking for Book 1 in order to understand what’s going on. There’s audiences for both types of series (as well as the middle gorund) so choose what method best suits your genre and the story you want to tell.

 

About Mary: 

Mary Pletsch is a glider pilot, toy collector and graduate of the University of Huron College, the Royal Military College of Canada and Dalhousie University. She is the author of several previously published short stories in a variety of genres, including science fiction, steampunk, fantasy and horror. She currently lives in New Brunswick with Dylan Blacquiere and their four cats.

 

To Quit or Not to Quit?

That wraps it up for us this month, and what a month it was! We dove into making goals, how to make better goals, when to amend your goals, and when to quit your goals. We hope our insights were helpful to you, and that you carry some of our hard-earned wisdom with you into your future work.

In case you missed a post this month, here they are:

The Stories that Just Don’t Sell by Mary Pletsch

We Always Need a Goal by Ace Jordan

Quitting by Nicholas Ruva

New Goal: Stop Making Goals by Kristin Luna (that’s me!)

A Gamer’s Guide to Quitting by Heidi Wilde

How Goals Can Destroy Your Writing Career by Gregory Little

Finish What You Start, or Not by Kevin Ikenberry

A Faster Book, or A Better Book? by Frank Morin

Quitting with Feeling by David Heyman

In Favor of Failure by Colton Hehr

The Goal Post by Sean Golden

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear by Kim May

To Goal or Not to Goal, That Is The Question by Jo Schneider

Made to Be Broken by Hamilton Perez

2018 – Hello, Universe Calling, Is Scott There? by Scott Eder

When Chronic Illness Sabotages Goals by Ace Jordan

Setting Realistic, S.M.A.R.T. Goals by Shannon Fox

Resources on Goal Setting and Quitting Goals by Kristin Luna

 

What were some of your favorite posts this month? Did we leave anything out? Comment and let us know!

Unicornado!

It’s a dark and pulpy night…a perfect time for suspense–terror—gore–and…

…unicorns?

Unicornado!Fossil Lake III: Unicornado! is an Anthology of the Aberrant that mashes up horror tropes and weather-disaster movies with….glittery, sparkly unicorns.

I’ve written about unicorns before–including in the two anthologies, One Horn To Rule Them All (A Purple Unicorn Anthology) and Game of Horns (A Red Unicorn Anthology), which raise funds for Superstars Writing Seminars’ Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship–but I’ve never written about unicorns quite like this.

One of the challenges I’ve had about being a writer who occasionally does horror stories is making sure my readers know what they’re getting from those stories. I’ve got a number of readers who are very excited about my science-fiction and fantasy work, but they’re upset by gore, or they can’t handle anything too scary. Meanwhile, I’ve got other readers who love the spooky stuff!

For those of you who write horror and self-publish, it’s a good idea to make sure your covers and blurbs reflect the content of your story, so people who don’t like the creepy stuff know what they’d be getting in your tale, and people who DO like the creepy stuff know that you’re someone they want to be reading!

I”m fortunate that my publisher wants to be absolutely sure that parents aren’t buying Unicornado! for their kiddies…unless their kiddies are Wednesday Addams!

The blurb makes it absolutely clear that these are not unicorn stories for the little ones.

So, how does one make unicorns scary?

In One Horn to Rule Them All, I wrote about a girl who strikes an alliance with a karkadann–a desert unicorn–and joins a group of unicorn warriors. Karkadanns are pretty scary–dangerous, aggressive, bloody, and hostile. If you’re not the karkadann’s ally, you’d be looking at a terrifying monster.

The mythological karkadann is thought to be based on the rhinoceros. When I was a child, I discovered that my grandma’s King James Bible mentioned unicorns, but my dad’s New English Version Bible translated that Hebrew word as “wild ox.” As a kid, I much preferred the idea that there had been what I knew of as a unicorn running wild in Biblical times.

So, a Biblical unicorn…of a very Old Testament variety. Mix in some of the storms and plagues that tormented Pharaoh when he refused to let Moses and his people go, and you have the makings of some very scary stuff.

My short story “Unicorn Prayers” is one of thirty-two tales of unicorn weirdness in Fossil Lake III: Unicornado! that range from the macabre to the bizarre.

Get your own unicorns here at

Amazon

or in ebook format on

Smashwords

And beware of the things that sparkle in the dark.

Superhero Universe

Who do comic-book people call when they need some damage control?

They call…superheroes!

Superhero UniverseSuperhero fiction is a fast-growing sub-genre of speculative fiction. Why do I call it a sub-genre? Because it doesn’t fit easily into sci-fi, fantasy, or horror. While some heroes could easily be classified as science fiction (think Spider-Man and Silk, who were bitten by a radioactive spider, or Superman and Martian Manhunter, who are aliens) others have powers of a more magical, fantastic bent (think Doctor Strange, or any of the number of heroes whose origins are based in religious mythology–Thor, Etrigan the Demon, Wonder Woman, etc). There are also heroes like Black Widow and Batman, who, while more physically fit and more intelligent than the average human, don’t have any “super human” abilities, whether scientific or magical in nature. And while heroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy zip around outer space in true space-opera fashion, many–like Captain America and Captain Marvel–live in a world that’s very like our own real world. One could almost call it urban fantasy, except it’s more like “urban sci-fi” in their case…

The speculative fiction mash-up that is the superhero sub-genre has long ruled Western comics. Superhero movies and TV shows aren’t “new,” and neither are tie-in novels based on superhero comics and their associated movies.

What’s “new” is the way that the superhero sub-genre has gone mainstream. Movies like Captain America: Civil War and TV shows like “Jessica Jones” aren’t just for kids, teens, and comics nerds. (And movies like Deadpool are definitely not for kids!) The appeal of superheroes has become much broader. And, with that appeal, people with “powers” (whether or not they’re traditionally “heroes”) are appearing more often in places outside comics–places like novels, short stories, and anthologies.

Tesseracts, the long-running Canadian speculative fiction anthology, celebrates superheroes this year in its 19th anthology. Superhero Universe stars superheros of all sorts, from their pulpy beginnings to their future possibilities!

My contribution to this anthology, “The Island Way,” is my first co-authored story. I had recently finished writing a rather dark, gritty story and deeply wanted a change of pace. I imagined my husband’s grandparents–Prince Edward Islanders, both–wondering “who wanted to spend all day running around in their underpants,” and a story idea was born. A character who was both Islander and superhero, caught between moving to the mainland in search of success as part of a nation-wide team, or remaining unknown and underemployed on her Island.

The story was co-authored because, well, I’m a mainlander. I wanted to make sure I captured an Islander’s voice and mannerisms in an authentic way, and so I enlisted my husband (who’s more of a hobby writer) to help me out. “The Island Way” by Mary Pletsch & Dylan Blacquiere is one of twenty-five superhero-themed stories and poems in Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe.

Take home your own Superhero Universe today in paperback or on Kindle.