Episodic Writing vs Solitary Tale Writing

Crossing Bedlam Cover by Jon Hunsinger

Crossing Bedlam Cover by Jon Hunsinger

First, I’ll admit that I’m not 100% certain of the terms I’m using.  I sat here trying to figure out the big difference between Windemere stories and Crossing Bedlam.  This is besides the characters, setting, and just about everything within the pages.  I’m talking the structure style here, which is very distinct in my head.

Windemere stories have a central plot and the chapters tie into that with various scenes that are part of the whole.  Bedlam is the same, but Windemere chapters are unable to stand alone outside of the book.  If I took the chapter where Lloyd and Cassidy are handling rhinos and a sniper, it can hold up better.  Not perfect since you would lose some context, but you can see it as a single episode with a beginning and end.  A chapter where Luke is talking about something that happened then fighting a mysterious enemy and Nyx talking to someone else doesn’t have that.  At least not as cleanly, especially with those descriptions.

This might be why some people said that Bedlam could work as a comic book, graphic novel, or television show.  Not that I would know where to go with that.  Anyway, the format is very much like that.  I want Lloyd and Cassidy to come in, bash through the obstacle, and leave within 3-4 sections.  Big ones will require 2 chapters, but every season has a 2-parter at times.  This makes more sense for these characters who aren’t getting involved in events that are bigger than survival.  I hate to call them simple, but their desires are rather basic when compared to the champions who are out to save all of Windemere.

I have to admit that there is a disadvantage to this type of storytelling that goes against my usual habits.  I love flushing out supporting characters and having them gradually take form in a story.  You can easily do that over the course of a book like Xander in Curse of the Dark Wind and Kalam in Allure of the Gypsies.  They were only around for one adventure, but they had some depth and entire books to show that.  You don’t get this when you’re doing an episodic adventure that involves traveling.  I need to give the Bedlam cast personality right from the beginning, which means a lot of flashy personalities and big actions.  For example, Katie’s ‘complaint’ about one of her men messing up her tea shows that she isn’t as prim, proper, and sane as one would think.

From the writing perspective, there is less pressure here in terms of continuity.  It’s still important, but it’s much easier to maintain it.  Conversations don’t carry over to new chapters unless it’s between Lloyd and Cassidy.  The characters that they meet don’t go with them and only come up in conversation, which means I have less to remember when continuing the story.  Honestly, it’s just central conversations, gear, injuries, and how frustrated Cassidy is with Lloyd.  This means I can take a break for a day or weekend when working on a Bedlam book as long as I make the proper notes.  This doesn’t work with Windemere where I need to have stuff fresh in my mind and editing runs are a combination of Hidden Object Puzzles and the Telephone Game.

I can’t really choose one over the other.  Each one works for the stories that I’m telling, so I’m enjoying both rides.  Though, I will admit that Bedlam works best when my schedule is up in the air.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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15 Responses to Episodic Writing vs Solitary Tale Writing

  1. L. Marie says:

    You always have such interesting posts! I love this topic! I think of Bedlam as a road story or odyssey, since you have them crossing so many thresholds (like The Odyssey). So the episodic nature of the chapters really work, since they get into so many jams like Odysseus and his crew did. The Windemere stories are more thematic. You’re telling a huge epic story over the course of several books.

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    • Excellent comparison. The Odyssey is a great example of one book being episodic. The journey tale is a classic and you definitely need multiple obstacles for the heroes to get over. It’s kind of difficult with a small cast though because you need to find ways to prove the lethality of the enemies. The Odyssey had a lot of crewmen to kill off.

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      • L. Marie says:

        Exactly! I love this type of story, because as a reader, you can relax and enjoy the ride. You can’t help wondering, “How are they going to get out of this mess?”

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      • It also helps with the ‘time passing’ between chapters. A story like Windemere makes it difficult to create gaps because it isn’t one adventure into the next. Bedlam can have them on the road for a week before they reach the next adventure.

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  2. Another great post. It has similarities to our debate from last year, in that you need to shorten the Bedlam stories into one or two chapters. I understand completely, because I’ve placed my novel in the background. Summer has some wonderful distractions, and I need to take advantage of them. Short stories seem to work best for me right now. My side project has some new (for me) challenges, because all of the stories fit in the same world. Some of the characters will even come together on occasion.

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    • I’ve actually settled on doing characters and outlines for a future series. My son finishes summer school on Tuesday, so I’ll be very hard to find on-line after that. At least until he goes back in September. Kind of glad I got these short story style chapters to take the edge off when I’m working. A lot less pressure to retain continuity beyond the heroes.

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  3. Bookwraiths says:

    Great post. Both types of stories are great to me as a reader, though I have to admit preferring the more episodic books lately, since I do not want to be bogged down mentally with continuity and Easter egg hunting. Nope, nice, straightforward adventure is what I’ve craved this year.

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    • I’ve noticed that people are wanting more of that. The episodic definitely works better if you’re really busy and have to take long breaks from reading. As you said, they don’t require the reader to get bogged down with continuity as much as the other stories.

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  4. I like reading both although I will admit Bedlam does not require as much concentration as the others. (Relly good when I only have time for four or five pages at the end of the day.)

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