One reason interactive serialized fiction is so fun is because readers influence every installment of the story. Readers have opportunities to do this in several ways. They might send me a quick note letting me know what they like and dislike so far. They might participate in a survey about a developing character. They might vote on an important detail. And, always, readers are right there with me in that special place where real life inspires fiction.
While reading Part 5, watch for these places where real life inspired fiction.
Readers determine the board games our Wren friends play during a storm.
When a brutal storm hits Wren Island, most of our Wren friends will be safe inside Allison’s cozy house, weathering the storm together. Most, but not all. (No spoilers here for Part 5. But you do know that writers often throw storms into stories when something that’s been worrisome is about to get a lot worse?) So some of our Wren friends will be cozied up, playing board games, wondering if the power will go out. When I asked readers about their favorite games, more than half the votes went to Scrabble. Next up in popularity, Monopoly. Watch for both these games, and more.
Readers determine the holiday menu.
Roast turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings. Green bean casserole and cheesy potato casserole. Cinnamon rolls, ginger cranberries, and pumpkin crunch cake with tons of whipped cream. Ham and cheese omelets. Fresh pomegranates flown in from Hawaii. Four kinds of pie.
Watch for these reader-favorite holiday dishes.
Virgil decides for himself.
While writing Parts 1-3, I asked readers if they’d like Allison to have a chance at romance. At the time, both Hack and Virgil seemed like viable options. Most readers said they wanted to see the relationships unfold more before deciding. And so we went along, letting ourselves wonder.
Then, in Part 4, we gained new intel about Hack. While Allison worried about Hack, Virgil worried about Allison. We saw Virgil doing all kinds of thoughtful things for Allison! So, while writing Part 5, I asked readers if they were ready for Virgil to make a move.
Now, let’s be clear, we’re talking “make a move” Wren Island style. We’re not going to see Allison and Virgil making out on the beach or anything. For goodness’ sake. Let’s not get all crazy here.
A few admirably free-spirited readers (you know who you are) advocated for a kiss—and the sooner the better! But the stunning majority wanted to draw out the romance between Allison and Virgil. That’s what I wanted, too! Which presented me with a conundrum.
Writing fiction is a lot like reading fiction, because the writer doesn’t always know what the characters will do or say next. Often, characters surprise the writer. Challenge us. Correct us. Outright refuse to listen to us.
I tried to step in. Wrangle control. “Hey guys, better slow it down because the readers want to draw this out.” Pretty sure Virgil didn’t care one whit when I said that. Acted like he didn’t even hear me! Allison, smart girl she is, took note and cooled for a while.
Which brings us, astonished as we may be, to what happens in Part 5.
Allison includes us in an important moment.
From the beginning, Allison shared her desire to do something important with her life. She struggles to feel she’s interesting enough.
In Part 3, when Allison was alone and injured on a remote island, she experienced a surreal moment when a bald eagle perched in a tree above her. Allison felt that the eagle’s presence might somehow be important. That it might somehow indicate she was interesting.
I suspected Allison would, at some point, tell Virgil about the experience. And I was certain of one thing. I wanted to be there when she told him. That was not a conversation I wanted to find out about second hand. Oh, by the way, Allison told Virgil about the eagle and yeah, he thought it was neat. No, we readers were going to be right there, front and center, when that conversation happened.
Watch for it in Part 5.
Readers are reassured the dog will be okay.
Perhaps I’m more sensitive than I should be. Perhaps at some point I’ll finally grow that harder shell I keep trying for. But I don’t like it when something bad happens to an animal in a story—I don’t like it at all. I suppose we readers will always have to navigate around landmines. But this is one writer who doesn’t want her readers to have to tiptoe.
So rest assured, my friend. It may look like things are about to go terribly wrong, but keep turning the page. The dog will be okay.
Part 5 of The Wren Island Series will be released on December 21, 2023.
With interactive serialized fiction, readers directly influence the story in real time. It’s easy and fun to catch up. When you subscribe to receive my emails, you’ll receive a link to the parts that have already been released. Then, watch your inbox for behind-the-scenes updates and opportunities to influence what happens next!