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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term "serial" refers to the intrinsic property of a series – namely, its order. In literature, the term is used as a noun to refer to a format (within a genre) by which a story is told in contiguous (typically chronological) installments in sequential issues of a single periodical publication.

More generally, "serial" is applied in library and information science to materials "in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion."[1]


The idea of stories being told in serial form dates back to the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), which consisted of a series of serialized stories, or "serialized novels" or novellas.[2] Its frame story is about Sheherazade telling stories to King Shahriyar, and she needs to keep him interested in each of the stories, to prevent his executing her the next morning. She often tells the stories in a series, beginning each story with a narrative hook, leaving off with a cliffhanger, and continuing the story the next night. This leaves the King in suspense, waiting until the next night to hear what will happen next. Many of her tales often stretch over many nights or episodes. For example, "The Three Apples" is narrated in five nights, "Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman" is narrated in six nights, "The Hunchback's Tale" is narrated in 10 nights, "The Adventures of Mercury Ali" is narrated in 11 nights, "The City of Brass" is narrated in 12 nights, "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" is narrated in 13 nights, "The Ebony Horse" is narrated in 14 nights, "Sinbad the Sailor" is narrated in 30 nights, "The Adventures of Bulukiya" is narrated in 47 nights, and "Aladdin" is narrated in 78 nights.

In 19th century literature, many writers earned a living by writing stories in serial form for popular magazines. Many of Charles Dickens' novels, for example, were originally published in this manner, and that is the reason that many are so long — the more chapters Dickens wrote, the longer the serial continued in the magazine and the more money he was paid.

Other famous writers who wrote serial literature for popular magazines included Wilkie Collins, inventor of the English detective novel and author of The Moonstone; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the Sherlock Holmes stories originally for serialization in The Strand magazine; and the Polish writer Boleslaw Prus, author of the serialized novels The Outpost (1885–86), The Doll (1887–89), The New Woman (1890–93) and his sole historical novel, Pharaoh (the latter, exceptionally, written entire over a year's time in 1894–95 and serialized only after completion, in 1895–96).

Stephen King wrote his novel The Green Mile as a serial.

More recently, writers have been encouraged by the easy accessibility of the Internet to return to the serial format. Stephen King experimented with this format with The Plant (2000), and Michel Faber allowed The Guardian to serialise his novel, The Crimson Petal and the White. In 2005, Orson Scott Card serialized his out of print novel, Hot Sleep, in the first issue of his online magazine, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show.

See also


  1. ^ Reitz, Joan M. (2004). Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Retrieved 15 March 2006
  2. ^ Waisman, Sergio (2003), "The Thousand and One Nights in Argentina: Translation, Narrative, and Politics in Borges, Puig, and Piglia", Comparative Literature Studies 40 (4): 351–71  



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