Mission of Gravity Q3: Serial novels


This book was originally published as a serial in magazines. Does that surprise you? Did the transition to novel work for you, or was the semi-cliffhanger structure too much an issue for reading with a modern eye?

Are there any techniques that serial novels use that work for tabletop roleplaying? It seems the travelogue style might be something to work in.


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    edited April 2019

    The serial novel structure does explain some of the repetitive nature of things. So I'm not too surprised.

    I think there is a parallel between writing serial novels and tabletop roleplaying campaigns which go on for a large number of sessions, with GM planning by necessity being for the next session, and in the middle of the campaign. That actually shows off a strength of a serial structure- it's responsive to player choices and actions, and not completely GM led.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure that advantage applies particularly to the craft of a novel. It gets in the way of polish and revisions.

    To answer your question, the way the book is "big idea, now make up stuff as you go along that fits in" is very applicable to RPGs.

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    No surprise, and the repetitive nature is something of a tipoff. We found that with James Whites sector general and with Van Vogts Space Beagle, too. The repetition tends not to work for me, but episodic fiction I’m quite fine with, as long as the ground is fresh. The Goblin Tower and The Hobbit are both episodic travelogues and I use this structure a lot in RPG campaigns.
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    The weirdest one for me was the end of Mission of Gravity. There was the hugely long chapter "Under", which to my eyes just ended on another cliffhanger... except that then there was a lecture (clearly removed from the actual story universe), and then an in-universe "Lecture Demonstration", and then _Starlight _started, which I soon realised was a totally different story. So I felt that _MoG _had no actual ending. Call me traditional, but I do feel that a novel, whether serial or anything else, ought to have a frame.

    That aside, I don't mind serial stories - I think The Martian was initially written like that, and as @dr_mitch mentioned it gives the opportunity to respond to feedback. Dickens often did that as his readership commented, and allegedly changed his originally-planned ending of at least one book accordingly.

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    You can see the serial structure. I don't mind it, having grown up with my nose in my father's Galaxy, If, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog magazines. Many of my favorite novels were originally released serially.

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    Wool by Hugh Howey was also an internet serial before being published as a novel.
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