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The Prospectives Serial Story Instagram

A story unfolding both visually and textually through social media snippets

by David Graver in Culture on 26 August 2014

A few years into the onset of Instagram as part of social media users' everyday lives, and still new ideas and expanded creative usage abound. With The Prospectives, a serial illustrated tale published online every Sunday, writer Adam Hurly and artist Sam Kalda have employed Instagram in an entirely new way. The Prospectives' Instagram feed reveals scenes, bit by bit, prior to their unified publication. It's a sneak preview in some ways, but ultimately it tells the story in its entirely—the engaging story of fictional character Eric Condor as he explores personal and professional opportunities in NYC.

Hurly (an editor by day) has been writing in some capacity for his whole life, bolstering professional work with personal projects. "It's nice to have the guaranteed readers when it's your paid job," he shares with CH. "But it's difficult for personal creative endeavors to get the same kind of traction." His side work—including screenwriting—allowed him to ideate and explore but between the amount of time consumed and the hurdles of the film industry, he began to search for another medium. "I needed something that was more manageable to produce, but also something that had similar storytelling principles as a screenplay yet 'tricked' people into reading it," he continues.

As for the use of Instagram, Hurly observed, "When I would scroll through my own Instagram feed, it was hard to find anything original. Even people with hundreds of thousands of followers are somewhat unoriginal given the constraints of the platform—an amazing photo is great, but does it always tell me a good story?" The writer used Instagram because he wanted "to feel connected to people through the moments and experiences they share." And from a series of questions, The Prospectives began to form: "I wondered if there was some way I could turn the platform inside out and use it for writing, and not for photos—though I knew that imagery would still be a vital part of any project. Then this lightbulb finally went off—I recalled how much I loved 'Tales of the City' when I lived in San Francisco. It was this serialized story published in The Chronicle that followed a group of characters at a really dynamic time—in this case, the '70s. I feel a really dynamic energy in my own neighborhood—Prospect Heights, Brooklyn—right now, and knew it would be the perfect place to tell a story about late 20-somethings in 2014."

Hurly and Kalda produce a weekly episode, that unfolds across seven Instagram photos. Regarding the balance of text, he shares, "I try to keep each part between 100-130 words, which still won't fill up an entire phone screen. Visually, each episode has its own drawing, and [Kalda] gives it an accent color. We make seven variations of each one so that each day has its own unique color, but then each episode is held together by using the same drawing." This structure allows for a uniform feeling, and an ease to catching up.

Hurly writes the episodes in advance and works with Kalda on a visual angle. Since their launch, Hurly admits that his "writing process is a bit more informed by his needs as an artist," something he learned from Kalda's ability to extract the most pivotal and engaging moments. Additionally, Instagram factors in once more: "I knew that a major component of attracting followers on Instagram would be having really visually engaging illustrations. After all, the platform is built around that. [Kalda] was the first artist who came to mind for a collaboration, and I think readers look forward to each week's drawings as much as they do the story. Sunday has become my favorite day because it means I get to unveil a new image for everyone."

Regarding content, Hurly tells people that "The Prospectives is based on people I would hang out with in my own life." Though the characters are fictional, there are real-life parallels to happenings he and his friends have experienced—especially now in their late 20s. "These people work hard and have earned the fruits of their labor. I think because of this potential, the propensity for interesting things to happen is also increased. I wanted to capture this fulcrum moment in our lives—and hope that I am doing precisely that," he concludes.

Stay up to date on The Prospectives by checking their site weekly on Sundays or previewing the story as it unfolds on Instagram.

Images courtesy of Sam Kalda

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