Telling Stories with Blogs

Lester (with my help) recently tried to start a fictional blog called The 11th man.  There are a lot problems with doing fiction in a blog, unless each post is self-contained, and simply written by a fictional character.  You can read more on this here.

The major problem is that you don’t currently have control, at least not with any way that I’ve seen in a wordpress theme, with where the current reader “tunes in.”  If readers were willing to login, then you could create a cookie to serve as a bookmark.  But so far – I haven’t seen that done.  If you have – let me know.

You could just publish all the posts at once – and keep them in an index and let the reader go from one to the next in order… but then you do lose the sense of each chapter being “published” as in the days or serialized stories which were the meat and potatoes of writers like Dostoyevsky and Dickens.  The books that we would later get as Great Expectations or Crime and Punishment were originally released episode by episode in inexpensive magazines.  Or stories with continuing characters like Sherlock Holmes were published one at a time in Strand magazine.

In the 30’s, one-reelers, cliff-hangers (as each episode ended with the main character in deep trouble) were very popular in the cinema of the 30’s.

And even now, many episodic shows are released on YouTube with a similar audience.

I’m just curious if anyone has seen this done with a blog.  I know that a few years ago Stephen King attempted something along these lines but I don’t think it worked out very well.

I’m not sure why this hasn’t been bigger in blogs.  They’re mostly used for news (uhm sort of), opinions, various entry points to media, but I haven’t seen it done in blogs, and I’m not entirely sure why not.

It’s tricky.  Even a short story would need to be divided into many posts and so you would need the blog to remember where the user was.  Wouldn’t like to read an O. Henry story and start at the end.

Doing a blog of a fictional character and his daily exploits which don’t depend on any order is the simplest.  More or less like picking up the latest cartoons.  Or maybe the plot needs to move as slowly as a soap opera.  You come back a year later and nothing much has changed.  In fact, the soaps are probably the most popular serialized stories on the air; and I bet a soap opera would be just about perfect blog reading since that sort of stuff is already so popular on the web (who’s sleeping with who, and who wants to break it up, and will Sally’s secret be revealed. I hope so.  The evil doctor has been threatening to reveal her secret for two years now.  But he’ll get his.)

Anyway – since there are lots of readers of this blog (or there were before I started scanning things) – if you’ve come across a fiction blog that you follow – I’d love to know about it.

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Dave

My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.

4 thoughts on “Telling Stories with Blogs”

  1. Hey, Dave –

    This is a good idea… I had tiny notions, in the back of my mind, pop up every once in a blue moon of doing something like that… but, never really made it too far forward from back there in the cerebellum to ever give it any real and serious thought…

    I Googled ‘online serial stories’ (which I’m surprised you never did already) and got more of the same of the likes that Kelly posted above –

    http://www.google.com/Top/Arts/Online_Writing/Fiction/Series_Stories/

    Then there was this from the Library of Congress –

    http://www.loc.gov/acq/conser/

    Etc., etc., etc.

  2. Wikipedia has a good overview of blog fiction, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_fiction.

    I think the main problem with blog fiction is the same as with any other work of fiction. If the reader is not caught up in the narrator’s world, the fiction will fail. The voice needs to feel “real” to the reader, but it must also take the reader to new and different realms. All great voices in fiction do that. I think readers will invest the time in a fictive blog if they are charmed, intrigued, and given wisdom, just like with any work of fiction.

    Plot is a thornier issue. The best literature has character development, which is tied to sequences of events in the character’s life. Without a thorough knowledge of those events, the reader misses the character’s history. I think that if a reader is sufficiently excited by the voice he comes across in the latest fictional blog entries, he will make the effort to go back and read the blog from the beginning in sequential order to catch up on the character’s history.

    Reader interaction through comments also presents unique problems. Most artists like to have complete control over their work, so creating fictional commentators and reactions to the blog would seem a logical strategy. On the other hand, it’s nice to give the real readers an opportunity to give their feedback and maybe practice they’re own literary skills. Either strategy could enhance the blog by giving it a sense of reality.

    I think a great writer will one day produce a great fictional blog.

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