Writing a Serial = Deja Vu

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On some nothing day at my old job, a co-worker brought me a magazine.  Not the day we were on break when Lou Rutigliano was reading the newspaper.  Lou leafed through the big four-color supermarket ads and said, “One hundred percent recycled toilet paper?”  He shuddered and said, “That must be the worst job in the world, recycling used toilet paper.”

And – bam – I slotted his words straight into Tyler Durden’s mouth.  Job done.  My books are nothing if not a coded diary of everything clever ever uttered within earshot.

And please flash this out because my Twitter skills are even worse than my speling.

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But on some different nothing day another co-worker, named Ina, brought me a glossy magazine.  To hammer home Ina’s name, in junior high school other kids taunted her with calls of, “Hyena!”.  Me they shadowed down the hall shouting, “Pala-nick suck my dick!” before sucker punching the back of my head.  Ah, sweet childhood.

Ina worked with Janet K, and they mooned about starting a New Wave band called The Violent Temps.  Ina brings me this magazine only it’s not.  It’s a mail-order catalog, a Victoria’s Secret except it’s all-over near-naked men.  Fitness model guys selling bikini swim trunks.  Mesh tank tops.  Lycra thong underwear.  It’s the International Male catalog.  This army of men with their washboard abs and their cannonball delts, what becomes of them?

Keep in mind, whenever you hear some blow-hard droning on about some flat earth false flag theory, most likely he used to be incredibly hot1.

To borrow Camille Paglia’s line about Tom of Finland characters, “Their entire bodies are tumescent.”

Ina hands me the catalog and says, “You want to write something?  Write me a serial about me and these guys.” 

Keep in mind, whenever you hear some blow-hard droning on about some flat earth false flag theory, most likely he used to be incredibly hot.

In that, the golden age of telephone sex, I had a gift.  I could spin a filthy story.  Not dirty-filthy, but tasteful-filthy.  Soft core.  Dopamine is the chemical of anticipation.  The moment the urine-soaked jockstrap comes off, the romantic spell is broken.  So for Ina I wrote a semi-daily wank book about a famous German fashion photographer.  The character’s name was Ina, and she slogged from exotic beach to beach, from the Seychelles to Cancun, ordering vapid male models to lose weight and arch their lower backs more.  She iced their nipples, stuffed crotches, and slapped color into their dimpled cheeks.  She undermined their arrogant self esteem and often drove these swaggering adonises to helpless fits of bitter tears; nevertheless, they loved her for it.

Ina, the real Ina, also loved it.  Not every day, but several times each week I’d send her an installment by email.

Soon a woman I’d never met approached me at work and said how much she also loved the series.  Another stranger passed along a similar compliment.  By the time I wanted to pull the plug -- yes, even degrading physically perfect douche bags will one day lose its zest -- Ina urged me to keep writing.  Without asking my okay she’d been forwarding the series to her circle of friends.  Each of them had been distributing the series to their friends.  And like a viral video before viral videos, the soap opera of uber-frau fashion photog Ina was landing in the In boxes of a few thousand horny women.  A little bit of a Kathy Bates Misery situation.

That was my first writing success.  Such as it was.

Who doesn’t like serial fiction?  Yes, it can go too long, most notably when the author is paid by the word.  Witness the original Adventures of Pinocchio which ran in a children’s magazine for two years, reaching a length of approximately 20,000,000+ pages.  That’s what you get when you pay authors a penny per word!

A better example is Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series, which ran and ran in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner.

It’s not as if serials are new to me.  I’ve written myself to the edge of a cliff many times before.  I’ve written Fight Club 2 and Fight Club 3.  And in single-issue comics every page is a cliffhanger.  In theory the reader scans both pages when opening the issue, so the only way to surprise that reader is to place a set-up in the lower right-hand corner.  Then, at the page turn, place a pay-off in the upper-left hand corner of the next page.  This they call a “page-turn reveal” and if you can manage such a surprise every two pages, sheesh, then writing a serial will be a cake walk. 

Please note. Written in 2018 and published in 2019, Fight Club 3 depicts a deadly pandemic that sweeps the world. This, just as Vanity Fair magazine releases an article about how Fight Club seemed to predict so many aspects of the last two decades. Funny how that works.

Do you want to see what I’ve got on tap for the next twenty years? Look for my serialized novel, Greener Pastures, next week Almost two years ago, it started as a young adult book, with my agent’s assurance, “Nowadays, nothing is too dark for YA.” Hearing that I thought, Oh ye of little faith.

Like everything I touch, the book got too dark and too filthy too fast. Mine is the flip-side of the Midas touch. Whether or not Greener Pastures is too anything, I’ll let you be the judge.

Just a Note: Over the first two or three weeks these posts will be short and to-the-point. The goal is to introduce you to the different types of craft ideas and backstory anecdotes I’ll be presenting. In time I’ll move on to longer pieces that explore topics such as plotting in more depth.


Hereafter this must be known as “Chuck’s Past-Hotness-to-Future-Batshit Ratio.”