Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Monday, February 25, 2013

Is it a serial or a series?

The difference in meaning of these two words has often stumped readers, viewers, and even the authors of what they read and watch.

What's a serial?

This is a group of books or TV programs, or games, or movies, which have the same essential story that progresses from one issue to the next.

What's a series?
The definition of series is a group of games, programs, books or movies that have something in common, but whose plot, or characters, or themes are distinct and varied.

Confusing. Examples, please.
Okay -  let's take Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels, or Georges Simenon's Maigret detective books. They constitute SERIES, because although the main character is always the same one, the plot and story in each novel is different. The story does not continue from one to the other, there is no progression in the tale, which does not come to a conclusion with the last in the series. One can pick up any of the novels and read them in any order with the same satisfying experience, because each volume holds one discrete story that concludes in that book.

When the story progresses from one 'episode' to another, in soap operas such as Dallas or Dynasty, or in books such as The Forsythe Saga by John Galsworthy, there is story development which must be read or viewed in a particular order to be enjoyed and understood. This makes them SERIALS. Each book becomes a sequel to the one before.

What's my next novel got to do with all this?
Good question!  My forthcoming novel, due for release mid-2013, forms part of a SERIES of novels. They have something important in common, but one can read them in any order and derive the same enjoyment. The story does not progress from one novel to the next, but the unifying element is always present.

The novel my next one connects with in this special way is According to Luke. Readers still have plenty of time to buy and read it before the next one in this series comes out. The novels will please readers in any order, however. So readers new to my name and styles might pick up the new novel later on this year, find that there is another in the series, pick it up, and enjoy According to Luke just as much, because there is no time or order element.

What kind of reader are you? Do you like a series where the story progresses from one volume to the next? You might like a series, where some element unifies a group of books you can read in any order.

What kind of author are you? Does the enormous task of writing a series or serial attract or repel you? Have you more to say on the subject?

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  1. You've given me something to think about with this post, Rosanne. I realise I never consider writing series or serials, yet thoroughly enjoy them when presented by others, both in written and film formats. You've also intrigued me with the brief reference to your new book connecting with According to Luke.

  2. My Brumbies 'set' is probably a serial then, not a series as I usually call them. The five stories are best if read in sequence because of the ages and experience of the characters (human and equine). However, there is a distinct story in each one, which is more important than the overlying story that ties them together.

    I love writing a set of books, whatever they are called. It is easy to get straight into the action after the first one as I know the characters already. The first three were set in the same location so that also made it easier for the illustrator who draws wonderful maps to support the text. Book four moves away from the Snowy Mountains, set in the outback, as I thought it was time for a change of scenery. The final book returns to the Snowies but a different location.

    The challenge I am facing is that the early books (due to the ages of the characters) are aimed at 10-12 year olds whereas the last couple are more for 12-14 year olds. That makes marketing hard, although I have readers from 8-80+ so it is more an issue for retail outlets to know where to put them.

  3. Hmmm. Thanks you for clearing that up. I suppose that means my trilogy is a serial, not a series.

  4. I've wondered about this, Rosanne--thank you for clarifying!

  5. Stands to reason that a series has marvellous appeal, providing the first book captures the audience. I'm watching herman Wouk's 'The Winds of War' at present...a lengthy set of episodesabout the 2nd world war that becomes steadily more engrossing because we know the characters so well. WIsh I could write one of those blockbusters! Margaret S

  6. My comment was published I see, but it sure wasn't proofed! Margaret

  7. Thank you all for your interest in what is fast becoming a trend in publishing today. It does not seem enough nowadays to write a novel ... one must keep an audience engaged in the promise of "there's more where that came from".

  8. I only rarely read a serial. I have to be really enamoured of the characters to want to read more. Come to think of it I don't often read a series either. Tend to flit around and vary reading. I have considered writing a further story to follow on from Streets on a Map with the same characters after a few people have asked for it, but there a a few other stories and projects that need to happen first.

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  10. What about a series that each book can be read alone, but does progress on a timeline? Like Lois Bujold with Miles Vorsigan? That's the kind of series i'm writing. Things go along towards a future, but you have a complete storyline un each.

    I love series/serial writing. Sometimes one book is not enough to get the full flavor of the world at hand.

    Interesting blog.

  11. I write novels that develop along a timeline, but are stand alone stories that are completed at the end of the book, similarly to Lois Bujold's Miles Vorsigan's series.

    I love series and serials because often one novel is not enough to get a real taste of a certain world or universe. Watching characters change and mature is also fun.

    I think a lot of writers are going in this direction in order to entice readers to read their works.

    Interesting blog. Keep up the great work and I look forward to your next one.

  12. I write novels along a timeline, but each one is a stand alone story. I suppose it would be a series much like Lois Bujold's Miles Vorksigan is a series.

    Sometimes one book isn't enough to see a character mature and develop. Often there are other characters in the same universe, Anne McCaffrey and Sharon Lee come to mind, that have a story.

    Many writers are finding the series or serial a good way to build a reader pool.

    Best of luck on the upcoming book. I nominated you for a Liebster Award since I like your blogs. Check out my blog at to find out the details and join the fun.