However, that was not true in the comics industry. Comics (at least, in this part of the world) have most commonly been told in short, chapter form with a letters column in the back, encouraging their fans to bitch and moan about the latest issue, or write tomes of effusive praise, or point out that Nightcrawler's hand had five fingers on page 15, panel 3, or whatevs. There is something else about comics, too: They were not expected to end. Ever. Can you imagine Superman ending and that's it? They don't end, they just get canceled if they aren't selling. A little like TV, but even more neverending, and without the structure of a "season" to hang that year's plot on.
There is something else different about comics too. Self-publishing is perfectly acceptable in the comics world. Many excellent comics began as self-published works, and some of them were picked up by a larger publisher from there, and some didn't. Although the comics industry is still dominated by superheroes, scratch the surface and the level of experimentation of not just art, but storytelling, in the comics world, IMO, is astonishing. And one thing I think is very fascinating is that comic creators can choose whether they want to tell one story with a beginning and an end, like a novel, or whether they want to tell an ongoing tale that can either be passed on to other creators, or end when the artist/writer simply gets burnout, or dies.
In writing, we don't really have that option. Sure, there are a few never-ending series, like in the mystery genre for example, but even then there are few examples outside of a fairly formulaic "every book solves a mystery" or "urban fantasy story where uh-oh, there's a NEW sexy vampire in town." There are comics that simply follow the slice-of-life dramas of a groups of characters. There are comics that combine slice-of-life relationship dramas with save-the-world traditional fantasy elements like Elfquest and Thieves and Kings (which also has prose sections within the comic). There might be story arcs, but there is no common rule dictating that the story should be a trilogy and then end...a level of freedom that FEW novels (I'm not saying none) manage. Of course, I'm sure the self-publishing element is part of it, and for every good comic there is a slew of bad ones, don't get me wrong.
Also, obviously there are things you can do in visual storytelling that just DO NOT WORK in novels. I bump up against the frustration of these limits all the time, as someone who once wanted to be a comic artist (but realized she doesn't have the patience with art that she does for writing). But I don't see why a serial story of short "episodes" in prose form couldn't work.
A friend of mine had a story on her blog some years back called MARZ Saga (she knows who she is
That isn't to say I don't adore the traditional idea of what makes a "good novel": the hero's journey, the tension of every page, the ending that delivers, three-act structures and defined character arcs and all that stuff. It makes for wonderful stories. Obviously, they are the kind I write and love and hope to continue to write for a long time.
But I also am cautiously excited about the idea that e-books could allow for some variations in structure, since authors have the ability to write shorter works at cheaper price points and get them to readers quickly. For example, after Magic Under Stone, I'm sure some of you will still want to know what happens to Nimira and Erris. Maybe, if there was enough demand, I could even get a third book out of them. But their whole lives just aren't going to book-worthy, unless I keep concocting rather tedious disasters for them to contend with. There is a point, however, where one might scale back. Cover a smaller, more intimate drama in their lives, maybe over the course of a few short stories that readers who are desperate to know their fate after the book ends could purchase for 99 cents, or things like that. We're already seeing a little of this, of course. This could go for the end of any book. Writers who keep thinking about their characters after the book is done could keep sharing the thoughts without spinning out an entire book from it. Or someone like me who draws all the characters throughout their development could share my sketchbooks with readers in ebook form.
There is the potential for some pretty cool stuff. And frankly, although even the suggestion that there could be a demise of print sends me into absolute DESPAIR, as I love having and holding tangible books, that is the sort of thing that gets me very excited about ebooks.
I have a feeling there is a post inside of this post, a post I didn't write, that gets my thoughts across in a less muddled way...but, there you have it for now.