My project…did not turn out how I wanted it to. My vision was a digital narrative centered in a blog format that danced into ARG territory through links to both real and staged events. The narrative would be about a family trying to find, then rescue their missing son from this creepy academy that’s super mysterious and definitely interests the reader. It would culminate with a twine game that gave the reader multiple endings based on how they chose to go about the finale. Unfortunately…my project ended up as more of a hollow shell of this well-filled dream. A pale shadow of the bright light of my imagination. A cheap knock off of my designed designer product. This is due to a number of things, but I think the one that most effected me and my progress was the actual writing itself.
I’ve written short stories before, and while I’m not super good or skillful, I’ve definitely done better than I did here. In a regular short story, something good to remember is that because you don’t have as much time to tell your story you should focus your plot around a main character or a central event. You should structure the story to a “crux”, and that crux should be what you want to reveal about your main character or event that is hinted at, but not told to the reader beforehand.
Because of the format, I think I spent much more time on attempting to develop a sense of realism and not trying to craft an especially inspired narrative. I don’t know who my main character is–It should be Bonnie, but I think she ended up more as a storytelling vessel than a real character. I wanted her to have a progression from sweet to ferocious the more desperate and confused she became, but her mannerisms are all over the place and I don’t think there is a real way to track her progress between posts.
As I was writing this story I knew this, and spent a lot of time trying to fix it to no avail. I really should have asked for help or asked someone to review it, because I got in my head and ended up stressing out for a lot of time I could have been doing actually productive work.
As for Alexander’s themes, here are the main ones I was focusing on and how I implemented them.
- Personal Presence–I think the way I incorporated personal presence and audience into this project is pretty interesting, even if it’s not amazing. In the beginning, the audience is addressed by Bonnie as readers of the blog. However, throughout the story they’re given a character to control that’s addressed in second person. I think it’s interesting to give the reader a character that represents them. I could see some people love being explicitly brought into the story, and some people feeling like their sense of immersion was broken.
- Serial Structure–Ideally, my project would have been broken up into serial updates. I think if I was actually doing this, I would have asked for like a blog subscription list so posts (and games, but we’ll get to that) could be sent to readers inboxes. Now that I think about that more, that could be a really interesting way to tell a story. Even if it’s something more silly, like a food blogger who posts recipes and just keeps oversharing in the vamping for each recipe. Something for next time!
- Social Framework–I didn’t really make a super large use of social framework. This is something I’d want to make a larger use of if I had more time, diffusing the story across multiple websites. I think that “scavenger hunt” aspect of Digital Narratives is really, really cool and I’m kind of kicking myself for not taking a bigger advantage of it.
- Multiple Proscenia–Again, I dropped the ball on this theme too. Sorry to Multiple Proscenia.
- Platform affordances–I used the backdating feature of WordPress to make the story look like it was released in a longer time span than it actually was. I was writing it late April/through May, and made it look like was released earlier this year. That was fun! I also briefly flirted with the idea of making a more lively comment section on Bonnie’s posts, but ended up scrapping the idea because it felt a little gimmicky. I posted like two comments from my account to foreshadow a plot point, but I think using the WordPress comment section could have been a lot of fun.
When working on this project, I was really inspired by Digital Stories like The Dionaea House and A Witch’s Word.
- The Dionaea House was written by Eric Heisserer, and began in 2004. What’s super interesting to me about it and what I tried to replicate is that the story doesn’t pretend to be real through appearance. What I mean by that is, it isn’t posted on social media and presented as real. It is (or rather, was) housed within its own blog site and pretty much declares itself a story with the stylized texts that appears above every post. However, it still tried to capture the style of social media/blogging websites. I really liked this, because readers knew it wasn’t real but found themselves doubting due to the awesome writing. I wanted to emulate this, but I think I relied a little bit too much on presenting realism through my website. I included a whole page dedicated to make it look like Ben was a real person who had gone missing, which I think went a little too far in presenting fiction as reality and didn’t contribute very much to the story.
- The Dionaea House never hit the mainstream, but was still very popular within internet culture. The way people found it was largely through sharing the link with friends and family. Today, its impacts can be seen in the large number of “creepypasta” stories that use the blurring of realism on the internet to create little snippets of horror.
- How my project is similar: both use blog formats to tell stories, present a sense of realism on the internet to engage readers, are (meant to be) serial in update style
- How my project is different: My project uses twine games, The Dionaea House uses multiple blogs, and The Dionaea House is just written a lot better.
- A Witch’s Word is a short twine game by Mary, an Itchio user with the screen name RainbowStarbird. It was made last year, and while not extremely popular received a warm reception on the Itchio website. In the game’s comment section one person posted a poem they’d wrote a poem about it, they enjoyed the game so much. Mary hasn’t specifically stated her reasons for making it, and it is currently still the only game she has posted to Itchio.
- A Witch’s Word uses Twine to tell a short story about a woman trying to pay back her debt to a witch. The player clicks through all the options until the true ending is revealed.
- How my project is similar: Both make use of interactivity through Twine without really giving the reader much choice.
- How my project is different: A Witch’s Word makes use of audio to create immersion, and has a better, more concise story that is rooted in the Twine game itself.
I think despite these similarities and differences, my project fits into a tradition of blending narrative and gameplay, and seeking to experiment with how the two can overlap. Digital Networked Narratives naturally foster this due to their inclination towards audience interactivity, and my pieces does add something new in this regard. It’s an original, if not overly inspired story that causes the reader to question how gameplay and story can be used to enrich the audience’ experience.
In my piece, I draw from the ideas of Raph Koster and Janet Murray in my. And, when I say I draw from their ideas, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily implemented them well. Koster talks about how narrative’s involvement in gameplay usually isn’t the forefront. Gameplay is presented as a challenge, and narrative is the reward for that challenge. However, he notes how Digital Stories have the potential to alter that and bring narrative in as a form of gameplay. Murray talks about how cyberdramas differ from traditional narratives through their branching, nonlinear way to storytelling that still holds weight through tonally appropriate sequencing.
Both of these authors have amazing ideas. The little puzzle that I made at the end was where I wanted to involve what they were saying. However, my story is still pretty linear. There’s only two real endings, and one “true” ending. It’s not really one of the vast, postmodern story-games Koster and Murray bring attention to. However, Murray writes that
“The first signs of this new storytelling are in the linear media, which seem to be outgrowing the strictures of the novel and movie in the same way that we might imagine a painting outgrowing the frame and morphing into a three-dimensional sculpture” (Murray).
This is where I think my project fits in. While the story is mostly linear, it shows a growth from beyond the traditional format of the short story through its involvement with cyberdrama elements and digital storytelling themes.
That’s it for my author’s statement. Thanks for reading!
Also, here are the Student pings where I have
ridden the coattails given constructive feedback to my fellow students.