Generate serialized fiction for the web (in development).
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README.md

Overview

Serious is a framework for building episodic (or serialized) fiction for the web. It takes a number of source files, written in markdown format, and compiles these files into a simple, sructured single-page web app for you to deploy to your webhost.

MIT license.

Features

  • Write in markdown.
  • Designed for (and only for) episodic content, from the ground up.
  • Users can easily access the episode list, view the most recent episodes, or start at the beginning.
  • Support for custom CSS themes.
  • Comments via Disqus. Just plug in a shortname and go.
  • Support for Google Analytics; just plug in a tracking ID.
  • Highly configurable.
  • Designed for authors who may not be experienced in web development (like me!).
  • Generates a simple static web page--host it anywhere.
  • A single page app, but episodes still have unique URLs, Disqus threads, history/navigation entries, etc.

Installation and Getting Started

Install via NPM: npm install -g serious-fiction

Installing Serious gives you access to a simple CLI to build your stories with. I'm new at writing CLIs, so it may not be as fully-featured an experience as you might expect.

You should ideally create your story in an empty directory. Run serious init in the directory to get started.

Run serious build to rebuild your story, and serious serve to view it locally. You can combine these two commands (eg serious build serve or serious serve build) to quickly build and view the story. You can also run serious build and refresh your browser tab (may need to hard refresh sometimes, which is Ctrl + F5) to see updates without needing to serve the web site again.

Serious uses AJAX, so you need to serve it via localhost, you can't just open the index.html file.

Configuration

When you run serious init, a config.json file will be added to your directory. In the future, I hope to make this part of the CLI, but for now, you'll need to edit it by hand. It looks like this by default:

{
    "title": "The Title of Your Story",
    "displayTitle": "",
    "subtitle": "",
    "description": "A description of your website (for web searches) goes here.",
    "copyright": "© [year] [your name]. All rights reserved.",
    "posts": "episodes",
    "input": "./src",
    "output": "./publish",
    "links": [
        { "text": "Website", "url": "https://twinelab.net", "label": "Learn more about Serious." },
        { "text": "Blog", "url": "https://twinelab.net/blog", "label": "Visit my blog." }
    ],
    "recentMax": 5,
    "recentsExcerpts": 1,
    "episodesExcerpts": 3,
    "debug": false,
    "disqusShortname": "",
    "googleAnalytics": "",
    "cookieWarning": true
}
Option Default Description
title "The Title of Your Story" This is the name of your story. It appears on the recent episodes page and the episode list page, and in the browser tab. Disqus comments are keyed to the title, so you likely won't want to change it.
displayTitle "" If you put something in here between the quotes, it will replace you title everywhere in your story escept for with the Disqus comments.
subtitle "" This appears below the main story title on some pages. You could use it as a byline, a subtitle, or a really short description.
description "A description of your website (for web searches) goes here. What you put in here doesn't appear in any pages, but is instead listed on some websites, like search engines or social media sites, alongside links to the story.
copyright "© [year] [your name]. All rights reserved." A copyright notice can be displayed at the very bottom of every page, just above where the "Powered by Serious." message is. You don't necessarily have to use this for copyright information. © is the html code for © (the copyright symbol).
posts "episodes" This option can be used to change the word used to refer to your episode posts, so you could change this to something else, like "chapters" or "verses", based on your needs.
input "./src" This tells Serious where to look for your posts, relative to config.json. Pass it a folder and it will recursively search it for markdown files (which have the .md extension) to turn into posts. Generally, you shouldn't need to change this, just place all your posts in the src folder.
output "./publish" Similar to the above, this tells Serious where to place your built web page, and where to run it from. Again, you generally don't need to change this.
links ... You can add links to the sidebar menu using this option. Each link should look like this: { "text": "Click here", "url": "www.somesite.com", "label": "this is a tooltip!" }. The text property controls the link's display text, and the url is where the link goes when clicked. The label propery appears as a tooltip when a user hovers their mouse over the link (using the title html attribute). You can use this to create links to you personal blog, main website, Patreon, etc.
recentMax 5 This controls how many episodes Serious shows on the recents page (and the landing page).
recentsExcerpts 1 This controls how many episodes in the recents list have their content shown. Those that aren't shown show an ellipse instead (&helli;). If you want all the content to be shown, set this equal to (or higher than) recentMax.
episodesExcerpts 3 This controls how many episodes on the episode list have their content shown, similar to recentsExcerpts.
debug false This turns on debug features, including console logs and other stuff. Generally not needed for most users. Probably make sure it's false before deploying.
disqusShortname "" You can set up comments through Disqus. A comment thread will be added to every episode, but not to meta posts, lists, etc. Just add your shortname here, no further configuration is necessary!
googleAnalytics "" You can set up Google Analytics for your Serious story. Just create an account, enter your site's URL, and copy and paste the tracking ID here.
cookieWarning true Adds a Cookie Consent-generated cookie consent warning to you project. If you have your own solution, or just don't care, you can set this to false. Serious itself doesn't use cookies, it only requires them if you use Disqus and/or Google Analytics.

Writing Episodes

You can write episodes using GitHub Flavored Markdown. At the top of each episode, you should have YAML front matter to describe the episode:

---
title: Example Episode
subtitle: Serious Examples for Serious People
episode: 1
description: Welcome to Serious!
---
This is an **example episode**!

Welcome to Serious. To create episodes, you create a heading block like the one at the top of this file, then write your *markdown format content* after that.
Parameter Description
title The episode's title. Required.
subtitle The episode's subtitle. Optional.
episode The episode's number. Required. See more below.
description A brief description of the episode (not an excerpt). Not required but recommended.

When numbering your episodes, start at 1 (don't start at 0, it will cause an error), and make sure to not double up on any numbers (will also cause an error). Episodes should also never be sparse. If there's an episode 1 and an episode 3, there should be an episode 2; this won't cause an error, but will probably break the generated website.

Meta Posts

"Meta" posts are special posts that exist outside of the normal episode structure. Things like an About page, recaps, etc. Meta posts are automatically added to the sidebar as links; clicking these links renders the meta post. To create one, make sure the episode parameter in the front matter is meta rather than a number. There is also an additional link parameter that can be used to change the the sidebar link text; if a link parameter isn't provided, the title is used instead. If you set the link parameter to _ (a single underscore) to prevent a sidebar link from being created at all.

---
title: About My Story
link: About
label : Learn more...
subtitle: This is a meta post!
episode: meta
description: Meta posts are awesome!
---
By creating a post and making it's episode property in the header `meta` instead of a number, you can create a *meta post*, which will automatically appear as a link in the sidebar.

The label parameter adds a title attribute (and "tooltip") to the generated link in the sidebar.

The parameters of a meta post are otherwise the same as a normal episode. Note that the titles of meta posts should be unique; episodes don't have this limitation (though it is wise).

URL Scheme

You can create markdown links to specific episodes by creating links that look like this:

[Last week](./?ep=10) our heroes...

The above would create a link to episode 10. To create links to meta posts, you need to know the title, which is normalized and slugified (e.g. trimmed, lower-cased, and all non-letter and non-number values are replaced with dashes). For example, if the title parameter is 'About' it becomes ./?meta=about, while Where is This Going? would become ./?meta=where-is-this-going-.

Deploying

Everything in the output folder (publish by default) is required to deploy the website. Copy all the files over to your hosting solution to deploy.

Themes

Some CSS themes by me.

You can create a theme by editing the theme.css file in the output directory. You can restore the defaults or start over by deleting the file--a new, blank theme.css file will be generated next time you build. You can download and install themes by overwriting the same file.

Project Structure

There are currently three main components to the project: the NPM package, which is the Serious CLI; the repository for the rendering engine, scripts, and styles that are served to the generated web app via CDN; and a repository for the themes I've made. All of these components could do with some tidying, but the gist of it is that these three things are being developed in tandem, but have little to do with each other functionally.