Episode 108: Can Authors Choose to Serialize?

In the last post, I went on about why serialization might be done. All the reasons made sense to a degree but nothing seemed like the catch all reason to explain how or why we stories are divided into parts. But then I refocused my analysis towards the central point of what my dissertation is about, authorship. There is a conscious choice as to how and stories are divided. Some of the divisions fall into the physical aspects of the medium, like needing to take breaks as both storyteller and reader to prevent exhaustion or distraction. But I have personally heard and even told stories serially in which the blocks of time range for a couple of minutes and even to hours, many times without the forethought as to why I decided to stop and go the narrative in that particular manner. It becomes more complex once you craft with seriality in mind, many times taking into consideration the previously mentioned reasons for serialization. Then again, plans go out the window if continued publication is outside of your control.

For TV shows, there are very strict time limits and commercial breaks during the individual installments that become even more difficult as you go into the publication process during a season. Storytelling has to fit a particular mold and the episodes need to fit into that mold before they even get on the air. If the viewership comes in droves then renewal is imminent but if numbers fluctuate there might not even be a new season. Not to mention that if the reviews/numbers are horrible, the execs that go above the author can choose to abandon the narrative ship immediately, which happened to a musical show about life in Vegas starring Hugh Jackman that was called Viva Laughlin and it lasted one episode only. I know more were produced and I kinda want to see if those episodes could ever be made available.

Television needs multiple episodes to tell a decent story, unless there is a 22 minute version of a televised stand alone short story but that’s not something I’ve ever seen. Movies have a different dynamic, serialization could be hinted at but never done because of low sales or expanded upon to something that was never meant to have a sequel if there is enough demand. The last few years for Marvel movies show a direct desire to serialize interconnecting franchises in ways that the upcoming Captain America looks like it’s going to be the proper link between Avengers 1 and 2.

The thing that really makes me overthink the idea of serialization as a choice by the author for narrative purposes is that the print analogues work way too closely to the previous examples. The way I see it, comics have a very similar process compared to television and books follow the film industry. What makes me feel somewhat awkward about the comparison is the deliberate choice on my end to say that the print formats are following the rules set out by the moving pictures. The old days of traditional print publishing and comics still had editors and people higher on the publishing food chain than the authors choosing what would keep being printed but not with the profit centrality that commercial storytelling now contains.

Still authors can choose how to divide their stories, and that will be further explained on an upcoming post.

In the meantime, I’m trying to find a good sendoff like “goodnight and good luck” or “see you space cowboy” but can’t think of one that fits. I will be trying out a few in the upcoming posts, if any of them sound perfect let me know.

Here’s to not getting cancelled,


Episode 107: Why Do We Serialize in the First Place

Hard to believe I have enough material to actually make a consecutive blog post. Definitely need to keep the streak alive. One streak that I am considering keeping up is this whole inability to sleep. On the one hand, no rest is bad for a lot of reasons which are actually hard to decipher from a purely biological standard (scientists aren’t sure exactly why we sleep besides “because we get sleepy”). On the other hand, your mind wanders in a myriad of different directions when you are unsuccessfully trying to will yourself to dream and after a lot of wrong turns you eventually get to a few nice spots you didn’t even know existed. Last night, I mentally stumbled unto this idea of why we serialize in the first place. Let’s see how well I can develop this one before getting back in contact with my pillow.

So why are stories serialized in the first place? The first reason that came to me is the overall physical limitation for the medium of storytelling. Some stories are just too big to be able to be told “in one sitting”. Thousands of years ago, as I so often use when saying about anything happening in any form of the past, travelling bards/minstrels could talk for a few hours before needing a rest (this figure is based entirely on my own attempts to try and speak almost non stop for various endeavors). There wasn’t that much paper around either so what little things were being written down needed to be broken up amongst various forms of scrolls and papyrus. The idea behind this made sense but further attempts at analysis and problematization reminded me that there are a whole ton of stories that are super duper long that were never intended to be serialized. The medium of publication/delivery has problems and limits that help serialization become a viable form of storytelling from the emitter’s perspective but advances in technology quickly rendered this point moot.

So if it is not based on media then maybe the finesse lies in the reader. From my time in the classroom, I know firsthand on both ends that a professor can talk for far longer than what students are willing to listen to. Hence, the limit might be more in attention span than anything else. Rather than having to tackle a brick sized text with far too many pages, you get it in slightly more digestible literary chunks. Plus, if you are going to make it in multiple parts, might as well have some cliffhangers at the end of each installment so that people will be interested in what happens next. Again, a bit of over thinking got me to realize that we already break up the story of just about everything. Plays have scenes and acts that have a very specific function of showing the introduction of characters and setting changes but they also give the viewer a break, a very literal intermission, as the story progresses. The pause is designed with a particular emotion to resonate throughout the narrative receiver and hopefully have some sort of reflection occur before the story continues. Novels have chapters but you don’t need to stop at the chapter breaks. In plays, the actors and playwrights control this. TV does this with commercial breaks and with the end of the episode. Movies, which have a much slower serial progression don’t really have these pauses. Though I do remember when Titanic came out in theaters and a bunch of cinemas decided to put a bathroom break somewhere around the 2/3 mark of the film. You get the physical limitation that I was surmising before but if anything is entertaining enough you can watch out without much pause as every account of Netflix binging that you won’t admit to can tell you. Then again you can have something be short (say a few chapters of a book that would be the length of a serial version of it, and for a lot of texts which were originally serialized this a common way to divvy it up, but be so bored that you can’t get through it in a single sitting.

So why do we serialize then if the medium can handle it and readers can just as easily marathon through a text or make their own intervals? Well there are a few standards of media that impose certain time limits again like TV time slots and page lengths for comic books. Beyond that I believe that the author has an interesting point of storytelling done via serialization. Some of it is money and some is narrative, plus there is always the chance that he/she has no idea what to do next and needs the time to finish the next part later. Speaking of breaks, this seems like a good one for tonight. Tomorrow will keep going as to the authorial choice to serialize.

An artificial one-liner generator

A crazy and amazing look into analyzing humor and whether it can be explained and reproduced through computer programming. Also a joke that hits close to home: “Why did the church hate Dungeons and Dragons? Because it’s a form of birth control.”

Scientia Salon

320px-Zach_Weiner by Zach Weinersmith

The following is an idea I’ve been mulling over and talking to friends about for a few months. I thought I’d finally share it to see if anyone liked it or was interested in working on it.

Warning: evolutionary psychology just-so story to follow. Think of it as a parable, not as a theory. It’s just here to contextualize the idea that follows.

The Story

Suppose there’s a monkey. Suppose also that the monkey has evolved to have an inbuilt proto-toolmaking behavior.

For this specific example, let’s say he’s learned to snap a twig off a tree and stick it in an anthill. When he pulls it out, it’s covered with tasty protein-rich ants.

This monkey is unlike you and I in that he takes no pleasure in finding the right stick. He knows the stick must have certain qualities – long, thin, not too brittle. However…

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Episode 106: 282 Night Challenge and Analyzing Dreams

A good friend recently told me about an almost 300 day challenge to write something substantial once a day until the end of the year. This is something that I have wanted to do in spirit for a while now. It was the premise by which this blog started a long time ago. A promise is something I try to keep but as much as I may try, I must admit that there are things that while under my control have never been something I can keep. It is a weakness and a personal shame of mine that I want to surpass and I need to start at least with my own academic integrity. A promise is a promise as the old saying goes but the premise of a challenge just has an extra gravitas to it. So as the legendary Barney Stinson would say: Challenge Accepted!

Dissertating is still slow and steady (well not as steady as I would like) but it continues. There are some cool things on the horizon which will be announced soon enough. In the meantime, dissertating summaries or just something significant will be posted here before going to bed or else. Time for some mental discipline. If I can head to the gym a few days a week and almost destroy y muscles I can flex my brain and show it on a regular basis. So I give permission for someone to insult me via whatever means necessary if there is no post by the morning.

Story time: Last night I had a hard time sleeping due to vague reasons. I can’t really explain it but when I have a good night’s rest the dreams are a huge blur of comfortable fuzziness. In that discomfort, the oneiric state stays longer in my memory. I vividly remember going through some kind of book that was trying to be good for a more progressive understanding of gender roles and then, mid dream mind you, I realize that it’s not feminist friendly at all. The first story was a girl that was a combination of Merrida from that movie whose name escapes me and Eliza Thornberry from that cool Nickelodeon show from the 90s. The character was a young girl with wildish red curly hair that lived out in the jungle/Serengeti and communed with nature. The overall idea of showing a female teenage Tarzan style figure seemed good at first glance but then critical theory analytical subconscious stepped in was pretty adamant as to the whole Othering of this “wild girl” who doesn’t belong in regular society. There’s this weird relationship between the exotic and the exiled that I should explore later on in more detail.

Second story that was there involved two sisters. I think they were some odd anthropomorphization of something but let’s go with regular old humans for this one. Anyway, one sister decided to have a career and travel the world while the other fell in love, got married, had kids, and became a homemaker. Every year or so, the two would meet and tell each other of their experiences. Each would be a little jealous of the other but never regret their current lives. It seemed nice that the depiction of apparent domesticity versus career development was not at odds but down the line the one that chose family had just that while the other only had sisterly love to fall back on. It was a weird choice that my subconscious made that my subconscious was simultaneously judging as hurtful towards showing that not having kids somehow leads to an unfulfilling life. Maybe I think too much about these things for a would be feminist who doesn’t even have sisters (at least not of the genetic variety).

Ultimately, both stories in my dreams tried to subvert the whole hegemonic patrimony and yet further enforced it. The fact that I want to create such stories while being aware of their potential contradictory and do both subconsciously perplexes me. I don’t know how much of an effect I will have towards gender equality at any level but apparently I want to try. Maybe I’ll help make GoldieBlox the videogame or Saturday morning cartoon or whatever.

Episode 105: Story about Being a Cashier

I recently read that one tactic for dissertation writing that many people recommend is to go four one hour blocks of no wifi with minimal breaks every day. Here is the original source https://chroniclevitae.com/news/370-the-no-fail-secret-to-writing-a-dissertation?cid=VTKT1

. Tomorrow I will try it out and keep going at it until I collapse physically and/or emotionally. But that is tomorrow; tonight I want to get my hands back into typing mode with something that has been rummaging in my head for a couple of days, a story. There is an upcoming short story completion on my campus and I want to try a stab at it, chances of success are minimal but I want to give it a shot and see if anyone likes it. The original idea from it, I must admit, comes from an old mentor of mine who wrote a collection of stories and one of them was about a young man who wanted to learn as much as possible about the people whom he only shared a glimpse with and whose curiosity would ultimately make the old adage of the deadliness of possessing such a quality (whether in felines, humans or cat people) strikes true. Still hammering out the details but I want to keep this inquisitive nature based on momentary observations just maybe without the fatal consequences of needing to find answers to questions that should never be asked. Consider this a draft for peaching purposes as they say on other parts of the Internet.

Check Out

You had to have done something pretty terrible in a past life to end up being the guy who has the morning shift at a small CVS close to a college campus. I curse this previous incarnation and whatever wrong doing he/she did because I have been at this job almost five years. I went to that college a few blocks away from my place of employment and my degree in philosophy showed me one universal truth. People ask questions for which there are no actual answers, but they get some decent guesstimations until someone calls them BS and proceeds to ask something else or in a different manner to get the actual solution. Part of me wants to be an inquisitor of existence while another wants to know why the manager having to drive her kids to school gives you an automatic excuse to come in later and gives me the meaningless promotion of having to open the store. And trust me, even the intrinsic beauty of a sunrise gets diminished to banality once you see it off the wide mirror’s reflection because the window behind your register is facing East.

Respect is something you don’t easily witness when your clientele is based almost entirely of college students who look insulted when you ask that they disregard their phones momentarily to pay for their purchases. Those who actually look at the task at hand only see my unremarkable face and a nametag that just says “Ivan.” I take it that having a last name there would have the possibility of having someone call me “Mr. Rivers” might provide a slippery slope toward something at least resembling general esteem for my person. Then again, people might ask if I was related to Prof. Rivers the literature professor and not telling them that I am her son just seems wrong. She’s ok, just that she loves books and characters more than people. That explains why she had to get mystery sperm to have me or why she named me after one of the Brothers Karamazov. Empathy is not exactly one of her strong suits so most students have a hard time with her. The last thing I want is for over confident teenagers to ask for my help with their classes, or for a reason to speak with my mother for more than just pleasantries. So Ivan works well, even if a couple of “bros” call me Drago because of Rocky IV in a moment of cinematographic genius that they assume no one has conceived of beforehand.

The only thing that makes the job worthwhile is the people that are there with such an overwhelming emotion that even a blind person can read on their faces. There are only a handful of things that college students need at six in the morning and I get to sell it to them and ask if they want to also donate a dollar to the charity of the month. With over ten thousand students a few minutes away on foot, you don’t really recognize faces but you do get to see emotion and not just a desire for whatever they are buying. For some kids, it’s a craving like the wannabe tough guys who miscalculated their nicotine needs and want a pack to start smoking immediately. I particularly enjoy the smugness that comes from someone who thinks they have outsmarted the system by buying whatever they needed in bulk and how they can barely carry the jumbo pack of ten rolls of paper towels out the door. Little do they know that no matter what, the company still makes a profit. Shame that workplace rules specifically state I can’t converse with customers about their purchases or question them about their emotions.

That policy stops me from being rude but it also inhibits my curiosity toward some of the most emotionally filled people that I get to share a moment with. There are grown up kids who just went through something life altering and I am the person they first come in contact with afterwards. You have never seen dread until you see a girl with a stain riddled fancy dress come to buy Plan B. The energy filled panic of a young man that gets a greeting card and a bouquet of whatever flowers we have will make you reconsider keeping an up to date day planner. Shame oozes in a very predominant manner from both the girls and the guys who buy pregnancy tests. The complete look of defeat that comes from a dude trying to return an unopened value pack of condoms almost me want to tell him about suicide prevention hotlines. Maybe it’s the empathy from my unknown father or the literary acumen from my mother that urges me to try and make a connection with these people if only to confirm the stories my imagination has already conceived. A hug, a concerned shoulder pat, even a simple “it’s going to be okay” is something I want but I can tell that they go at sunrise to get these objects for two reasons: urgency and anonymity. They need it fast and don’t want anyone else to know about this. If there was dark room with a vending machine with said items there would probably be a line of people hiding their faces at almost all moments.

The biggest temptation comes from those damn little store cards to get personalized coupons. Even at their worst, most people still want a deal. For an instance, their entire information comes on screen and my little nametag pales in comparison to what our interaction has let me learn. I get their full name and want to call out to them with some form of solace as they are about to leave. I obtain a phone number that entices me to call later to try and fill out the dotted lines of the narrative that my subconscious has drawn out that needs a conclusion. And yet I am left sympathetically silent and inquisitively impotent as they rush out with receipt barely in their grasps. Most days I don’t get to be the momentary apothecary for these Romeos and Juliets whose stories advance to the next scene after obtaining their required times. Regardless, I feel like I have continued life’s quest for questions and answers for those poor young unfortunate souls. Shame that even if they did enlightenment or peace of mind they probably wouldn’t come back and share their discoveries with me.