There’s a new form of story-telling that is slowly gaining popularity. I'm going to call it episodic fiction. These stories are not novels or short stories. They’re something else. These stories are based on the sensibilities of television. Terms such as episode and season tend to be used. You have a cast of characters that appear in each episode (essentially a novella). Each book can be its own story but they combine together to tell a larger story arc. This is more than just serialising a novel in pieces. The episodes combined do not follow the same structure of a novel. They follow the structure of a television season.
I think there are two factors that have inspired this kind of story-telling. The first is the eBook revolution. Novellas were not popular for a long time. It was not financially sustainable to print and sell them on shelves - but they are perfectly suited for electronic media (not to mention the shorter attention span of busy modern people). The other factor is what has come to be known as the ‘second golden age of television’. We are seeing a lot of well-written scripted stories appear on TV. This charge seems to be being led by the premium cable networks in America. These stories have inspired writers to pen the same kind of fiction in written form.
Two of the pioneers of this type of book are Sean Platt and Jonny B Truent. Some examples of their series are the fantastical and somewhat comical Unicorn Western (yes you read that right), and the extremely edgy cyberpunk thriller The Beam (big content warning for this one).
Christian authors are also getting in on the action. In the speculative arena you’ll find multi-author series such as Colony Zero and No Revolution Is Too Big. Each author will generally be ‘cast’ as a character and write their episode from their character’s point of view. It’s not all speculative though. Christian author Tracy Krauss has released a series she calls Neighbours (no not the Aussie TV show) which follows the exploits of a group of people living in an apartment block.
It seems to mainly be indie authors who have blazed the trail with this type of story-telling, but some bigger names are now getting in on the act. Big name Christian authors Bill Meyers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt and Alton Gansky are currently working on a supernatural thriller series called Harbingers.
Episodic storytelling offers some interesting new opportunities for Christian writers. Novels generally have a single protagonist. In a Christian novel a spiritual journey is often part of the protagonist’s arc. This type of arc can sometimes come across as 'preachy' to non-Christian readers, no matter how much we might argue that it isn't. The Christian message is perhaps too front-and-centre for them to handle. Interestingly, recent TV shows like Falling Skies and The Walking Dead have shown that mainstream audiences will happily accept Christian characters in the mix of a larger cast. This gives us an opportunity to do the same. Not every episode need be "Christian fiction" but through one or two characters we can bring a Godly worldview and perspective into a story.
I have actually been interested in this type of episodic writing for decades. I just didn't realise that readers would accept it in written form. The pioneers of these stories have shown that they will. I am currently developing a series that I call The Remnant. It is an episodic space opera featuring a mix of characters living in an extraordinary and difficult situation. I'm targeting the story at a general audience, but like everything I write it will still be influenced by my Christian world view. I'm in the midst of writing the pilot episode as we speak and it’s proving to be a blast. I'm still working on my novel, but this new frontier offers up just another way to express ourselves creatively, and that's always a good thing.
Lynessa's Curse is soon to be published in the Medieval Mars anthology.
He hosts a show on youTube called Stories with Adam Collings.
Connect with him at adamdavidcollings.com