March 12th, 2008
Series vs. Serial

Writerly Wednesday

I was speaking to someone at Epicon and, in the course of conversation, we touched on the difference between writing a series and writing a serial. Note that these are the definitions that I tend to use and may vary slightly from the definitions of others.

A series is a set of two or more full stories that share one or more commonalities. That commonality may be a world, one or more characters, a key concept, specific plot devices, etc.

Del Fantasma books (from Aspen Mountain Press) are a series – they share the following:

  • a basic world, a continuity character (Cody)
  • a location (the Del Fantasma Bar)
  • a plot device (they all have drinks that relate somehow to the story)
  • a genre (they are all paranormals)

A serial, on the other hand, is a story that is told in discrete sections over a period of time, often without a pre-determined ending. Think “soap opera” – those are serials. Some authors publish serials on their websites or mailing lists as well as in magazines or other venues.

2 comments to “Series vs. Serial”

  1. How did I miss this conversation? Just my type of thing.

    I’d add something to tweak serial, if I may? A serial may not be soap-operaish at all. It may, in fact, be a single story arc which is told over the course of several books, ending in a cliffhanger between sections.

    The main difference between a series and a serial is that all books in a series should be ABLE to stand alone as individual books, even if they make more sense read in order. A reader should be able to pick up book four, read it and enjoy it fully as a stand-alone…then go back and pick up 1-3 and read them. A serial should be read in order to make sense, since it’s a single storyline arc, continued from book to book. Yes, you can catch up with enough background to follow it in book four, in some cases, but the books are not written to stand alone.

    In my case, PROPHECY is a serial of two books; KEGIN, NIGHT WARRIORS and so on are series books.


  2. Great elaboration, Brenna :)

    Thanks for coming in with the assist.