Agency and Entertainment: Writing an Interactive Serial

I’ve just launched Midwestern Requiem, a paranormal horror serial set in Southern Illinois amid crumbling highways cutting through endless seas of corn to connect pastoral suburbs with the dying outlet malls that serve them. It is very much drawn from my own experiences growing up in Middle America, from memories of weird religious slogans painted on the sides of barn, recollections of cicada choruses in the afternoon heat, of dead silent snowstorm winter nights and the lime green skies of tornado weather, of the pretty little lies we tell ourselves to keep the peace.

The first season of the story — and it is structured like a plot-heavy supernatural television show, with episodes and seasons — opens with the mysterious disappearance of a young girl who vanished while everybody was busy watching the eclipse back in September. We flit from character to character, touching on how interconnected lives are affected by tragedy and setting up the events to come. Raising questions and giving few answers, because this is after all a serial and not a stand-alone short story. If you want closure, if you want satisfaction, you’ll have to follow along with the story.

And to follow along, you’ll have to join my Patreon. The first episode, the first taste? That’s free. You want more, you’ll need to buy-in — a dollar a month, but that also allows you to participate in the performative nature of the storytelling.

Choose Your Own Character Arc

At the end of each monthly chapter I will be posing a question to my Patreon supporters, asking them which way the story flows moving forward. I do have the entire serial planned out, but it’s more of a bush than a tree, with branches and options and permutations that I’d be more than happy to explore. Many of these questions revolve around the protagonists and whether they overcome their baser nature to embrace their true potential — are their arcs positive or negative? Do they throw the ring into Mount Doom or end up floating face down in a pool? Can they become more than they are, or will they make the same mistakes endlessly?

I don’t know. You tell me. It’ll be an entertaining story either way.

Or you could just read it

So the act of writing the story, reading the chapters as they’re written, is one way to experience Midwestern Requiem. There’s a second way, a static way, one that removes the freedom and responsibility of choice. Each season will span 5–8 episodes and, once complete, will be made available in paperback and hardcover. $10+ supporters on my Patreon get a copy free, as they get hardcopies of all my work, but the collected volumes will be made available either way.

So, go ahead and check it out. Read the first part. Get hooked. Buy in. Help me figure out what kind of terrible things happen to these people, and whether or not they can rise above.