In Wonderworks: Literary Invention and the Science of Stories, Angus Fletcher observes that authors in the 19th century (Dickens, left, Wilkie Collins and others) used suspense and empathy (and cheap paper) to draw in an audience that hadn’t done much reading before… Their novels, serialised in instalments, drew on suspense to build their sales, but they also employed a sense of ongoing connection with the characters, combined with “partial dopamine” – some pleasure in the semi-resolution of the suspense, but not so much pleasure that we are able to stop reading.*
Serialised novels are making a comeback. Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children) and Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) have released their 2021 novels in serial form.
*from the review of Wonderworks by Jane Smiley, author of 1000 Acres, in the Guardian Review, 11 Sept 2021.
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