OK, it’s something I learnt from my own muse. As I was writing about the adventures of the good doctor Jasper Jarman, I sent her approximately five chapters at a time, just a few thousand words really. She would read the excerpt and then a week or so later, the next instalment would arrive in her eagerly waiting inbox. My excuse was that I was still perfecting the text and story line, and so I could only give her small portions at a time. In reality, we both knew that it would never ever be perfect (and for fuck’s sake, you wouldn’t even want to be). I just wanted to stretch it out, and so did she.
The writing style employed in the Time Anew series contains a lot of cliffhangers. In fact there are so many cliffs in that country, that crampons, ropes, and mountain attire are de rigueur. Thus, quite frequently the episode sent to my muse left her dangling on some precipice, looking up, and down and round and round. I was possibly treading a fine line.
“Très bien. Ça marche” (it works for me) she announced with a smile after a few portions had been delivered. “C’est vrai” (really?) I replied. I thought she must have been kidding, but no, she really did like a slow comfortable experience, with a few heart stopping dramatic moments along the way, but also pauses and rests and breaks and breaths. I should have known that would be her penchant.
We live in a time of fast everything. You pick up the food fast from the drive thru and they ask you if you would like extra, even though you have just asked specifically for not extra. We bulk purchase, and we buy the lot, because “you never know, you might want that later”. We want the entire series to be released at once, because you might just want to sit on your arse one entire weekend and binge watch the lot. We don’t want to sit on that cliffhanger, and wait until next week to find out…
But what is the other side of the coin? Instant gratification somehow lacks just that little bit of satisfaction. Read to a point, and then … just stop … take a breath … take a cold shower. I gather that in the time of Dickens, people would wait dockside for the ship to arrive with the next instalment of The Pickwick Papers. Imagine the excitement as their wonderment, intrigue, and suspension of tension are assuaged and abated on avidly consuming the next chapter.
Let’s get serious about serialisation. My muse taught me that you can save the suspense, and savour that moment in time. You can review and revisit, and speculate and surmise, at the end of the chapter, before those next new words in fact even exist. The story is told as much in the gaps as in the pages.
Serialisation, it is just a little bit like life, is it not? Things happen, and we don’t know how significant they will be, until… the next instalment arrives on our doorsteps.
À la prochaine, mes amis