Serial and Chat Fiction: What You Need to Know

Morgan Danielle

(Photo by Becca Tapert/Unsplash)

Some trends start with a bang and others with a whimper. Two new forms of writing emerging in the new decade are serial fiction and chat stories. As a writer at any stage of their career latching on to an emerging form of writing can give you the audience to move on to bigger and ‘better’ things.Let’s break down the specifics of these new forms of writing and how you can get involved in them:

Serial Fiction

Serial fiction is the splitting of a larger piece of narrative fiction into smaller more digestible chunks. These chunks are known as installments, parts, fascicles, or numbers and are usually published in periodicals or collections. You’ll experience the following benefits when writing serial fiction:

  • Time to build the full story after initial publishing instead of writing the entire piece first
  • Practice completing a story arc within each episodic piece to maintain reader interest
  • Opportunity to build a strong audience and gain a hungry fanbase of readers

Serial fiction isn’t just for obscure writers approaching the written word as a hobby. Check out the following well-known and respected writers who have published their work as serial fiction previously:

  • Charles Dickens
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Agatha Christie

19th Century readers turned to episodic fiction for the same satisfaction we find from TV shows today. Cliffhangers and complete mini-arcs within each episode leave readers dying for more and returning the next week or month for the continuation of the story. (Hello, dedicated audience.)If you’re used to writing novels, adjusting to the pacing and structure of serialized fiction will take practice. You can start by reading more serial fiction to observe those skilled at the craft. Turn to guides and those more versed in the world of serialized fiction to answer your questions. Then finally, try your hand at this form of writing. And remember, you can’t simply hack up a completed novel and call the chapters installments. Understanding the pacing, structure, and arc needs of a serial installment can do wonders in creating a piece that engages your audience.

Chat Stories

Chat stories are micro-stories often told in episodes. Chat stories can easily be grouped in with other serial fiction with one significant difference — the stories are told entirely through text message conversations.This emerging market for fiction writers is aimed mostly at Gen Z consumers and the younger Millenial demographic. These bite-sized pieces are designed to inspire urgency. When consumers are used to watching TV and being overrun by messaging 24/7, you need to find a way to deliver immediate satisfaction. That’s how chat stories were born.Chat stories tend to fall into one of two genres — horror or romance.

The trend began in Japan through cellphone novels (keitai shousetsu). Today this trend has inspired the growth of a handful of United States startups focused on sharing chat stories through a freemium model.The best way to learn more about writing chat stories is by reading them. If you’re interested in writing your own chat story, begin by downloading the top chat story apps, like Yarn or Hooked. Comb through the top-performing stories and those not getting much attention. What do successful stories do differently? Emulate their success by understanding their structuring and pacing.

Chat stories are a growing area of fiction. This means it could boom or it could burst. You’ll have to decide where you want to be when it takes a turn for the better or the worse.

This is an area to watch but not necessarily one overflowing with paid opportunities at the moment. Take some time to study the craft of writing chat stories and keep an eye on any news of rising companies — chances are new companies will be looking to build a library of chat stories. That’s when you can swoop in as a writer and get your first gig as a pro chat story writer.

It’s likely you already have a preferred form of writing. Maybe you’re an essay writer or a short story writer. You could be big into poetry or strongly favor epic fantasies.No matter your writing background, you can pursue and explore new, intriguing writing forms. How? Simple. Engage with writing communities, consume work in the new form, read as many resources as you can on the topic, and (as always) practice. You don’t know what opportunities will open up in the future.

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