We have a special guest today – Jim Bronyaur, author of the the supernatural thriller serial “Pulsate”. Jim will be familiar to many writers on twitter, and we’re pleased to have him here to tell us a bit about his work.
Q. Jim, before we talk about Pulsate, the serial, tell us about Pulsate, the award-winning story. Where did the idea for that story come from?
I never wrote a vampire story before Pulsate, but always had a notion that I probably would. The obvious kept me away from vampires until one day I had an idea…
I used to live in a house that was hidden behind another house. Our address was the same as the house in front, except it was REAR. 619 REAR. The house faced an alley and faced the backs of the other houses that faced the main street. Yes, this is the setting for Pulsate (for those who have read the story).
I used to run the alleys and each time I went through a street and into a new alley, I always wondered. Wondered what could be in the alley… what could be waiting…
I also never wrote with a female as my main character. So I thought up a story about a woman running who encounters a vampire.
And thus, Pulsate was born.
Q. How did you decide to turn it into a serial? Was that your own idea, or was that based on feedback from readers?
Pulsate was lucky enough to be published on Flashes in the Dark last September (2010). It quickly turned into one of my more popular published pieces. After reading it a few times myself, I noticed that I had quite of bit packed into a flash story. I told myself I’d think about writing Pulsate again.
Then one of my close friends mentioned turning Pulsate into a series.
And then, to top it off, the wonderful editor at Flashes in the Dark emailed me, proposing a serialized story for Pulsate.
And how could I say no to that?
Q. What was the biggest challenge in serializing the story?
Keep the storyline together and building. From the moment I turned Pulsate into a serialized story I knew it would become a big project. Big in the sense of writing what I ended up calling “seasons”, just like a television show. Big in the sense of novelettes, novellas, and novels. Big in the sense of… *dare I say this*… comics.
So each episode I write I have to keep the entire story of Pulsate in my mind. From the beginning to that moment in the story.
Another challenge… writing each episode like its each own stand alone flash. I try to write the episodes so that if you read, say, episode 7, you know what’s happening.
Q. Do you have the complete story arc mapped out ahead of time, or are you making it up as you go along? Or something in between?
No, no, Pulsate is well thought out. I wrote outlines for all 13 episodes for the first season and took side notes for the second season. I learned my lesson the hard way last year… I tried a couple serials that I just wrote on the fly, but they failed. I ended up forcing myself into a story that just wasn’t there.
I personally feel you need to have something written down so you know where the story is going. It’s easy to get lost in your own story and it’s easy to mix your storylines.
I have a couple notebooks ready to go, with ideas for seasons and books.
Q. The serial has been well-received. At what point did you say, “right, I’ve got enough material now for a book”? How did that next step come about?
Well, the book is the first season. As I wrote Pulsate, I began thinking bigger. I thought about myself… and how many serials I read and keep up with. I’ll be honest, not many. Why? Because it’s tough. So I wondered how to fix it… and it made sense – put it in a book. Appease everyone. I wanted to reach those who don’t read online. I wanted to reach those who only read paperback books.
The 13 episodes were a great start to a book, but as I said, I have so much extra material for Pulsate. So I took 5 never before seen episodes that tied into the first season and put them in the book. And to top it off, I added a novelette about a vampire tracking Asa… all the while season one is happening. By reading the first season book, you really experience Pulsate full circle. You see it the way it was published but then you also get some background episodes and the novelette (which in my opinion, is AWESOME!).
I think we’re in a time right now where all writers have a shot… they need to just take it. By taking the extra steps and getting Pulsate in ebook and paperback form, I’m able to expand my audience. I’m realistic that some people just aren’t going to have the time to follow the series online as it’s published, so I make it so they can read it elsewhere.
Q. You’ve published a number of anthologies and collections. Were there different challenges in working with a serial as source material vs. a collection of stories?
A collection of stories are their own breed of writing. Each story can be different. Each story is its own creature, so to say. But for a serial, you must have a storyline to follow with side things happening. And as I mentioned, each episode needs to bring you in, give you something, and keep you wanting more.
Q. Do you find that the readers of your flash fiction also read your serials or do you feel you have a separate readership for your serials or longer works?
I’d say that most who read the flash on my site do enjoy Pulsate and my books. I think having those free stories are an important part to building a platform… and having Flashes in the Dark publish Pulsate every week for me has been great. It keeps drawing a bigger audience.
Q. What advice do you have for writers contemplating a serial in terms of writing craft?
Just because it’s free or online or a serial doesn’t mean rules don’t apply. Editing is HUGE. Beyond huge. And again, I’ll go back to it over and over… the story. You must have a story to tell. When I sat down to pen Pulsate, I had the idea in place – Asa interferes with a vampire killing a woman. That’s the story for season one. What happens within that story, in 13 episodes, is learning about Asa, the different creatures, the fights, a little back story, etc.
I’m not a big outlining kind of person at all, but for a serial, I’ll say that you must have something written down to follow.
Q. The e.book format is a major topic to writers and publishers. It’s been said that serials, which used to be a mainstay of magazines and newspapers, are poised to make a comeback in the age of mobile devices with e.reader capabilities. Are you and other serialists on the vanguard of a revolution?
OF COURSE! 🙂
Times are a’ changin’ and have been and will be. I have the control right now to do what I want, when I want to. Being able to take what I’ve had online and offer to a bigger audience is HUGE for me.
There are millions of ereaders out there… and for that matter, ALL computers and smartphones are ereaders. You could put Kindle on your desktop and iPhone. You could put Nook on it too.
The market is there, waiting.
Remember ten years ago when TV shows starting show up on DVD? It was strange… why the heck would I buy something I’ve seen? Or could see by just waiting a few weeks? And what happened? The market exploded. Every TV show – old and new – is on DVD now.
Because people enjoy it. When we want to see the soup nazi, we don’t have to wait now, we just pop it in the DVD player, right? Haha.
I tried to do the same here with Pulsate. The episodes are still live on Flashes in the Dark and will remain there as long as they’re wanted there. And the next season and the next will be there too. For free. I’ll follow the same path as I am now… I’ll package all the episodes together, with some bonus stuff, and then sell it.
And just for the record, to any doubters, I’ve sold copies of Pulsate… in ebook AND paperback form.
Because people want it in one sitting, complete.
Me personally? That’s how I feel. I’d rather wait and have someone put their serial out as an ebook and then read it then.
And with the ease of technology via Kindle, Smashwords, and PubIt!, the tools are at our hands as writers.
Q. Last question: tell us your two absolute favorite hero-defeats-the-monster movie scenes, one with a male protagonist, one with a female protagonist. Horror, thriller, sci-fi, whatever genre you want. Go!
Hmm…. this one has me thinking… for the female… I LOVE in the first Friday the 13th when the girl chops of Mrs. Vorhees head. So cool. Even though that kind of pissed off Jason… but then again, it technically started a franchise.
For the male… I’ll with Terminator 2. That movie was such a big deal to me as a kid – it had Arnold, a Guns n’ Roses song, and Budnik from Salute Your Shorts in it. When the T-1000 is finally killed off… that was such a cool part of the movie.
Thanks, Jim! Jim Bronyaur is the author of (among many other works) “Pulsate” a monster-hunting thrill ride serial. You can find out more about Jim, including links to his publications and all the places you can find him around the web, by visiting his blog.
Jim – I'm glad I'm not the only one who has had serials with false starts. I hope that both of us are able to pick up those failed serials and rewrite to make them complete one day. Congrats on your success with Pulsate – it's so interesting reading about how it went from an idea to fruition. I think you're right that there are two types of readers of serials … those who are happy to read a new installment each week and those who enjoy the story but want to have it all packaged up together. Depending on the serial, I tend to fall into the second category. Thanks so much for sharing this info with us at Tuesday Serial! 🙂