Creating a Web Fiction Series – Episode Three: Settling on an Idea

I’ve probably been doing this backwards. Usually, there’s a story you want to tell first then you figure out how to fashion it into a web serial. So, this process that I’m undertaking seems a bit artificial, and it is, but at the same time I feel like it acts as a good kick in the rear. Something that nudges me into actually writing instead of dwelling on the same ideas over and over. Think of it as a challenge almost. And plus, I’m too far gone into this process so I can’t turn back now.

But let’s look at the basic elements I want to see in the story I cultivated from the last post:

  • slice-of-life, focusing on more everyday struggles
  • a protagonist who isn’t super-whiny, but may still have internal conflicts
  • possibly some science fiction/fantastical elements, but nothing too overbearing
  • a slight philosophical bent, but doesn’t take itself too seriously

After some thinking (some) I’ve decided that the best thing to do is settle. You know? Like, have you ever been in a relationship that wasn’t all great, yet wasn’t all that bad either? You both didn’t really “love” each other, but, well, you both had to settle on something. Well, this is kind of like that. Because, earlier in this series, I mention a story idea revolving around a pizza deliveryman. It was just something I threw out there. I wasn’t really too excited about it, yet, it was there. And looking at the story elements above I thought, well, maybe this will work. I gotta settle on something…

So, I dwelled on it some more and came up with a basic synopsis for the web fiction series. Here ‘tis:

Burt Romero, a college dropout and recovering alcoholic moves back home to work for the family business: a pizzeria. Burt tries to get his life back on track, and mend his relationship with his family and the people he left behind. Oh, and there’s also spirits, extraterrestrials, and other strange phenomena that he has to contend with daily while delivering pizzas. Life isn’t so easy for Burt, but hey, he just has to take each day…one slice at a time…

Oof. That last sentence though…

But, I think I can make the basic idea work. However, one thing that lingers is the fact that I’m not super passionate about this idea. I mean, after all, shouldn’t I be somewhat passionate about it since I’m going to be writing multiple installments for who knows how long? I guess, but, as I mentioned before, if I just abandon this idea I end up just dwelling and dwelling on different ideas and not actually writing anything. Maybe, what I can do is flesh it out first and see how it goes and then write a couple of installments…

…Yeah I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.

But it’s got the elements that I like in there. I want to do a weekly, episodic type of thing with a new misadventure or plot each installment. But I also want to have an overarching story and that could be about Burt’s struggles with himself, his family, and his community. But since each episode will focus on something comedic or strange, the more dramatic elements may not become too overbearing, yet will not only still be there, but act as sort-of a foundation for the series.

But some things I have to watch out for is the potential for cliches. There’s the college dropout and recovering alcoholic. These are character tropes that have been done ad nauseum so either I want to try to do something new with them, or drop them completely.

The story idea also reminds me of shows like Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty. Both series deal with “wacky” situations, yet are also about something “more”. However, while I admire both shows for their ambition, they both have their flaws, and maybe with this series I can address them and make something that both works as a comedic sci-fi as well as a dramatic series that tackles its characters and ideas in a mature way.

Or I’ll just fail horribly.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted, all two people of you. I’ll probably also post about other works of art as well that have influenced or will influence this series as well. Oh, and I’ll start that podcast soon…maybe…

*Note: The image at the top of the post is supposed to be a couple that has “settled.” I tried to find images of couples in mediocre relationships in the WordPress free image gallery thing, but all I found were young, happy couples climbing mountains and shit. 

Creating a Web Fiction Series – Episode Two: Researching and Brainstorming (You Know, the Fun Stuff)

Hey, an image of crumbled pieces of paper. How original! So anyway, in the last post we stumbled upon a winning war strategy:

  1. Gotta be brief
  2. Resonates with readers
  3. Pushes them boundaries
  4. Gots to be meaningful

Now it’s time to brainstorm some ideas. I had a couple of ideas for a series as I’ve mentioned before, but they’re kinda shit, so let’s try to come up with something new. Something fresh. Something that “resonates with readers” and “pushes them boundaries.”

(*15 minutes pass*)

Um…er…maybe if I…

(*goes outside, walks around for a bit then goes back in after realizing the sun isn’t his friend.*) 

Okay, maybe we should look at some web fiction series and draw inspiration there. I’ve noticed that a lot of web fiction centers on or includes the following:

  • superheros, probably due to the popularity of Worm.
  • sprawling fantasy worlds filled with lots of lore
  • supernatural beings and magic
  • a young, angsty protagonist
  • science fiction elements such as spaceships and time travel

Let’s see what we got here. First off, I’m not really all that interested in writing about superheroes. Maybe I can write a superhero as a side-character who causes more destruction than good, or is simply a delusional normie. But for the most part I’m not interested in the genre; if we end-up writing something within that vein I would want to try something somewhat different, or at least attempt to use a different angle like telling the story from the villain’s perspective, or hone in on some random thug who keeps getting beaten-up by “supers.”

As for fantasy, I’ve got a soft-spot for it thanks to growing-up with games like Baldur’s Gate, but for whatever reason I could never get into fantasy serials. Either because many of them are too “lore-dense” or they don’t approach the genre from a fresh perspective. Many seem like merely transcibed DnD adventures. If I decide to write a fantasy I would try to put things on a smaller scale. Either focus on some random peasant trying to make his way through the world of heroes and dragons, or create a “blog-diary” of a young goblin who doesn’t want to pillage and rape anymore, opting instead to become a hero of some sort.

“Supernatural beings and magic,” is kinda vague, I know, but I’ve seen elements of either magical realism, or things like ghosts, as center-pieces for a lot of web fiction. I’m kind of interested in doing something similar. Maybe something like The House of Spirits where strange, “magical” shit happens, and people just kind of deal with it without question. I could also include more traditional stuff like vampires and zombies and all that neat stuff. I had an idea previously about a pizza deliveryman who gets caught-up in such craziness. Maybe I can revive that idea. Or do something similar to The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma, a serial about a private detective whose cases often involve the strange and supernatural–a combo of noir and magical realism, two genres I’m interested in.

I’ve also noticed that many a web fiction feature an angsty, young protagonist. This isn’t bad in-of-itself, but because it’s so common I want to try to avoid it, or dampen it by either making the protagonist self-aware. I also want to try to avoid the “reluctant hero” crap.

And science fiction, while not my favorite genre, is one with a lot of potential. I want to avoid doing the typical Star Trek/space opera thing of people flying around and shooting at aliens, but, if going down this route, I would want to do something closer to what Jason Sanford does with his stories: using science fiction ideas or fantastical events to explore some aspect of humanity. Kind of similar to The Twilight Zone, but with a greater focus on the characters.

So…I guess from the above you can kind of tell what type of fiction series I’m probably going to end-up writing. Here are the basic ideas that I’m interested in after researching some other web serials:

  • slice-of-life, focusing on more everyday struggles
  • a protagonist who isn’t super-whiny, but may still have internal conflicts
  • possibly some science fiction/fantastical elements, but nothing too overbearing
  • a slight philosophical bent, but doesn’t take itself too seriously

Ayyyyyy, so we’ve got something here, sorta. Next time I will hone in on these ideas and try to actually come up with an actual story. See you next time, ya fucks.

Creating a Web Fiction Series – Episode One: I Have No Idea What the Hell I’m Doing Help

In my previous post I mentioned wanting to write a web fiction series. This is clearly a terrible idea. Because a.) it’s time-consuming, b.) no one will read it, and c.) I’m a terrible writer, as you can probably already tell. Yet, the interest is still there. Mainly because I want something that will keep me motivated to write. Something that will keep my mind occupied whilst still remaining a fun hobby.

I also want to be rich.

But that has nothing to do with writing. I just wanted to throw that in there because, well, I’ve got alimony payments to make and I’m tired of sleeping with the rats. But hopefully, writing a web series will provide some form of relief from the dark encroachment of reality.

So anyway, the purpose of this little series is to detail my efforts to undertake such a project. And in this episode we shall address a somewhat important question: how does one begin writing a web fiction series anyway? Well fortunately, The Google has all the answers, and they have provided me with several in the form of this article.

This article, written by Jack Sutherland for The Writer’s College Times, offers some things to consider when writing a “successful web fiction series”. So let’s take a look, shall we?

Fiction and the Internet are strange bed-fellows. So how exactly do you construct a story that will get noticed amid the vast sea of information? It’s not easy, but it can be done.”

Not easy? Well, this is unsettling news. But we can’t give up just yet. Let’s tally forth.

“Web readers are very different from consumers of traditional prose. Web readers skim, and are always ready to leap to something else the moment a piece isn’t meeting their demands. Basically, they have a kind of ADHD.”

Okay, so we now know the enemy, I mean audience. And they have the attention span of a fly caught in a house fire. So, how should we address this when it comes to writing?

“…Keeping your story shorter than 500 words or so (roughly the length of the average web article) is the best way to ensure it gets read all the way through.”

Alright so this is what we’re going to do: for the series I am writing each installment will be kept under 500 words. If what I’m writing starts to exceed 500 words I’m tossing it. Yep. I’m not even editing it down. Whatever I’m writing: in the trash!

But, according to the article, brevity just isn’t enough…

“Even if your story is short, the reader isn’t going to stick with it if your piece isn’t resonating with them. The tight-rope stretched between brief and relatable is the one your web fiction must walk.”

Shiieeet. “Brief and relatable” was my nickname in high school. I don’t even know what that means.

“…the web allows writers to push boundaries and go further than traditional prose writers ever could. A story presented online can be accompanied by a soundtrack, can be comprised of Twitter comments, or could even be told in memes.”

Twitter comments and memes. Damn, writing web fiction just got a whole lot easier. But seriously, I guess one reason to read web fiction over more traditional forms of literature is that it can utilize things print media simply cannot in order to enhance the story. We’ll keep this in mind, maybe. I don’t know.

But there is one more thing that we have to keep in mind apparently:

“The last thing web fiction needs to do is what all fiction needs to do. Your story should endeavour to uncover some deeper significance for the reader.”

Okay, so now let’s summarize:

  1. Gotta be brief
  2. Resonates with readers
  3. Pushes them boundaries
  4. Gotta be meaningful

Thanks to the internet, now I have four things to consider and kinda nudge me toward writing something that’s halfway decent, maybe.

Previously I stated that I had some ideas for a story, but I may try to come up with something new with the above ideas in mind. So in the next episode I might demonstrate this brainstorming process, and maybe talk about looking at other web fiction series and cultivating inspiration from them.

Or maybe I’ll just give-up. That’s always a good option I hear. Ayyyyyyyy.

.

.

.

.

.

group of people raising right hand

Contributing to the Landfill (Plans, Projects and Podcasts)

Do you ever walk by your neighborhood landfill and think, “hm, you know what? This could use even more shit!” That’s how I feel everyday, and that is why I’ve decided to start a podcast. That’s right. I’m throwing my hat into the never-ending garbage pile of unheard internet voices (…yay…) Here are some of my justifications for further polluting the internet landscape:

  1. Coworkers and others have stated that I should start a podcast. Either because they think I’m funny, or because they want me to stop rambling on company time. Either way this seems like a good reason.
  2. It’s always something I kinda wanted to do cause I need a hobby other than sleeping and watching random clips of The Wire on Youtube.
  3. General feelings of self-importance.

So, what’s this podcast going to be anyway? Well, I envision something similar Bill Burr’s podcast, except I’m not funny, so it’ll be different.

I’m also thinking about contributing to the internet landfill by starting my own serial fiction series, or webfiction series. Or whatever it’s called nowadays. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a webcomic without pictures, or similar to what Charles Dickens and others used to sometimes do with their novels in ancient times: releasing them one chapter or so at a time in a magazine or literary journal. Except now, some people publish their novels or series online in weekly segments. Now, what are my reasons for doing this? Well:

  1. eehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Anyway, I have a couple of ideas for a web series. One being about a lonely pizza deliveryman with each episode centering on some sort of escapade/struggle of his, whether it’s dealing with some sort of supernatural entity that refuses to tip, or something more mundane. It would be like the X-Files meets Papa John’s.

But we’ll see how that goes. (Or not. Life is fickle that way.)

Memes aside though, with webfiction I’m hoping to communicate ideas in a different way, by combining “high literature” with techniques from television serials. And with the podcast I would like to be able to entertain at least some people, if possible, or at the very least entertain myself. All very solipsistic, I know.

I will also continue posting here of course–describing the progress of these half-baked plans or writing about random topics to the joy of everyone.

Keep you posted, random person who stumbled across this post on accident.