Most of the time, I’m pretty certain I was born in the wrong decade. Not that there was anything wrong with the 1970s, but in many ways I feel much more connected to the 1950s. All the Heywood-Wakefieldfurniture in our house, for example, as well as the house itself, is from the 50s. I’m drawn to artwork from that era. I love reading books set in and that were written in that timeframe (reference: Ed McBain and John D. MacDonald). Heck, I even prefer cars, trains, and boats to air travel. Many of my social attitudes are more suited to the 50s, too. And my love of the artistic forms of that time translates as well to my appreciation for serialized stories.
Some years back I enjoyed reading Laura Lippman‘s THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT. When I wrote to her to tell her how much I’d liked it, she mentioned that it had been originally serialized in the New York Times. While I had missed this original publication, I wasn’t surprised, because the structure of the story lends itself to being read in bits.
As most things do, serialized stories are gearing up for a comeback. Considering that many of us communicate these days in 140-character tweets and Facebook photo captions, this makes sense. From a practical perspective, too, many readers do so in settings—public transportation or waiting rooms come immediately to mind—that are suited to shorter bursts of reading.
Amazon has quietly launched Kindle Serials, and I have it on good authority that they will be feeding it with some exciting content in the coming months. I also heard a reliable rumor that Crimespree Magazine will be serializing novels starting soon. These examples represent two models—paid and free—each of which has marketing pros and cons. They share one important thing, though: a serialized story builds reader loyalty.
I’m a fan of serials because they exercise a portion of my brain that modern rapid-fire short-form communication tends to atrophy. When I read a portion of a story and then have to wait a week for the next, the brain files it under “remember this.” I pay more attention to details that I might otherwise miss. I feel more engaged in the story because I’m following along, pausing to consider each installment before getting to the next.
And while delivery methods have evolved, serials hearken back to a time when the world was a bit slower, more considered, we didn’t necessarily need it all right now, and we took the time to revel in a great story.