Serial literature

Serial (literature)

The term "serial" refers to the intrinsic property of a series — namely, its order. In literature, the term is used as a noun to refer to a format (within a genre) by which a story is told in contiguous (typically chronological) installments in sequential issues of a single periodical publication.

More generally, "serial" is applied in library and information science to materials "in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion."


In the 19th century, many writers earned a living by writing stories in serial form for popular magazines.

Many of Charles Dickens' novels, for example, were originally published in this manner, and that is the reason that many are so long — the more chapters Dickens wrote, the longer the serial continued in the magazine and the more money he was paid.

Other famous writers who wrote serial literature for popular magazines included Wilkie Collins, inventor of the English detective novel and author of The Moonstone; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the Sherlock Holmes stories originally for serialization in The Strand magazine; and the Polish writer Boleslaw Prus, author of the serialized novels The Outpost (1885-86), The Doll (1887-89), The New Woman (1890-93) and his sole historical novel, Pharaoh (the latter, exceptionally, written entire over a year's time in 1894-95 and serialized only after completion, in 1895-96).

Stephen King wrote his novel The Green Mile as a serial.

More recently, writers have been encouraged by the easy accessibility of the Internet to return to the serial format. Stephen King experimented with this format with The Plant (2000), and Michel Faber allowed The Guardian to serialise his novel, The Crimson Petal and the White.

Online serials have been used to create fictional communities, as in Presence, or to reinterpret and comment on actually existing communities, as in Sydney Shards.

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