Post #12: Symbols, Indexes, and Icons

Hey class,

CityFish uses tons of signs throughout the entire story. I’d say about half of the story is images. The text is not only accompanied by symbols, but surrounded by them. Maps are especially present throughout CityFish, which would count as icons because of their topological nature. Because so much of this story is about place and traveling between places, these add to the story by immersing us in the world and putting us in the shoes of someone traveling and checking a map for their location. The use of “You Are Here” symbols scattered around the story serve this purpose as well–they add to the feeling of navigation in a big world (and are a symbol because it takes reading or cultural knowledge to understand what it means). The thermometer index and Fahrenheit/Celsius converter also helps put us in the shoes of Lynne and her experiences in having to switch back and forth between the different measuring systems (and is an index because it is pointing to something else–the temperature outside and how people measure it). There are diagrams (icons) of roads, train and subway routes, spine conditions, how to use chopsticks, fish skeletons, and parts of a sink. These show us what the characters are seeing and absorbing, and where they are getting their information from. The diagram of the spinal condition that the protagonist sees impacts how she views her family’s postures.

The use of signs in this story reminds me of Scott McCloud’s aspect-to-aspect panel organization. The constant clutter of photographs, signs, maps, and diagrams helps establish the scenes that the characters are in. It feels like we as the audience are visiting these places and interpreting signs alongside Lynne and her family. It functions to help put the audience in the shoes of the characters.

I personally would like to try this in my own projects as well. It would be nice to not have to draw or find pictures of every single location my characters go, but instead provide important tone-setting visual signs to allow the audience into the scene. It may even function better in engaging the audience, since it leaves room for interpretation.


Post #11: Hypermedia Storytelling

Hey class,

I would absolutely consider “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” a story. Though it is presented in a fractal format, the story is cohesive and the fractal does well in presenting the characters thoughts, memories, and emotions in each section of the page. The story expands beyond just the moment–the greater world is presented and fleshed out through images, dialogue (both past and present), and memories. The story keeps the audience engaged by providing enough details to draw in curiosity and understanding, but leaves enough unsaid to encourage audience imagination. The format of the story adds interactiveness as well, since the audience gets to choose what details they elaborate on next, creating more immersion. The story has a plot–the protagonist’s boyfriend is adjusting to being back from war and is coping with the memories. The characters and their relationship develops as they try to reconnect and become comfortable with one another again. The fragmented navigation adds to the story by showing how even in a single moment or conversation, countless thoughts and memories go through people’s heads. This story doesn’t use much linear sequencing, intentionally breaking down time instead.

I would also consider “How to Rob a Bank” a story. It presents a coherent story of a couple becoming notorious bank robbers through the phone screens of the characters, allowing audiences glimpses into their text messages, notes, Google searches, articles, social media posts, and map apps. The story presents the world around through locations the characters travel via pictures and maps, articles offering other perspectives on the events, and other characters like the police following the characters and emails from Elizabeth’s sister. The world feels fleshed out beyond just the characters. Since we only see the characters screens and not their actions, it’s up to the audience to deduce what exactly happens. By giving just enough clues to figure out what happens, it encourages the imagination of the audience. The plot and characters change over time–Elizabeth and Ted start off not on speaking terms, and eventually end up on the run together with their child. The mix of text and visual elements keeps audience engagement and fleshes out the characters and the world. We see the characters planning life-altering events and we see them playing video games. The story uses clear linear storytelling.

I would absolutely consider “With Those We Love Alive” a story. It presents the story as a text-based exploration–like a book that allows you to explore, expand upon, or change certain details within it. The world is very fleshed out–audiences can explore different corners of the world such as the palace, forest, and nearby city. These provide small details connecting to plot, but also small details that just add flavor and breathe life into the world. Audience imagination is engaged with colorful descriptions, hints at past events, and changing background colors and music. Characters change throughout the story–Grale reflects on her work, the empress, her past, her family, and her past relationships. The introduction of Sedina and their interactions pushes the plot forward as Grale turns towards rebellion. The navigation of the story allows the audience to influence the story’s pacing and place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist. The main plot is linear, but has some changes depending on audience choice. There are also plenty of non-linear exploration the audience can control.


Post #8: Cinema and Owl Creek

Hey class,

The film “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” has more emphasis on the hanging and imagined escape, while the written short story provides more context and history with the protagonist. There are a few specific noticeable differences–for one, the stories start at different times. The text begins with the rope already around the man’s neck, before flashing back to explain how he came to this situation. The film starts slightly before that, showing the soldiers preparing the rope to hang the man and continues linearly. The text shows the story mostly from the protagonist’s perspective. For example, him seeing the soldiers silhouetted against the sky, standing over him. While the film sometimes zoom out and shows him swimming away from above, or the camera on him from the bushes as he lands on the shore. The text’s description of the water feels more disorienting than the film’s. It describes him spinning, the colors blurring, and is far more brief. The film has several minutes of him in the water, and most of it is the man swimming away.

I like how the film adapted the story. It portrays the man’s fear well, the tension of the hanging, the panic in the chase, and the feeling of being alive. Its use of music and zooming in on nature added to the scene where the man believed himself to be alive and free. The film also did well in presenting the man’s perspective as he was swimming away with shaky camera shots frantically looking around and up at the sky.

Again, the text was far more explicit in providing context to the story. Though both presented the story from the protagonist’s view and put him in a positive light or sympathetic light, the text’s context allowed me to understand and develop my own feelings and opinion on the situation. In the film he was just a man trying to stay alive to return to his family. In the text he was also a man being punished for specific actions.


Post #7: Visual Narratives

Hey again class,

This is a little story about and owl-duck finding out about a very large (in comparison) dog! The panels predominantly use moment-to-moment transitions, but you could argue some action-to-action and subject-to-subject transitions as well.  The panels are organized moment-to-moment as the owl-duck explores and finds clues of the dog. Some transitions might count as action-to-action (like the panels where the owl-duck discovers the fur and dog), but perhaps not, as they don’t involve any actions beyond traveling and seeing things. I would likely count traveling and discovery as “moments” and not “actions.” The use of different zooms and camera angles (like the zoom in on the owl-duck’s face, the zoom out to show the surrounding environment, and the over-the-shoulder scene showing the dog) were inspired by “subject-to-subject” transitions, but I’m not sure if they would count since they contain the same subject in every scene, just with the occasional additional background, fur, or dog in the shot as well.


Post #6: 5 Short Story Summaries

1. Classical Aristotelian 3-part structure:

Harvy, a hard-of-hearing middle schooler who struggles to trust adults, goes on a week-long school field trip to an isolated, snow-covered state park. Harvy grows suspicious of the tour guide when he notices his classmates begin acting strange. Everyone else seems happy and adores the tour guide–is he just being paranoid? What’s that strange whirring sound coming from the cabin’s basement?

2. Kishotenketsu 4-part structure:

An eldritch being takes on a human disguise and explores a human grocery store for the first time, reporting its findings back to a court of eldritch horrors.

3. Episodic structure:

Professional monster tamer Cynthe tracks down monsters that have been appearing and causing problems around the city. Each monster is unique and has to be handled differently than the last, so Cynthe has to get creative with solutions. One monster regularly reappears that blurs the line between monster and human–a shapeshifter that insists it’s a person.

4. Surrealist/fantastic mode:

Icarus has “survived” the fall and landed in the ocean, wood and cloth wings now in tatters. The servants of the underworld begin to descend upon him, trying to pull him into the afterlife. Icarus must find a way to mend his wings in order to escape the order of nature.

5. Personal anecdote:

A crafty child, alongside his cautious sibling’s help, builds a foam tower atop their mother’s queen sized bed. A balancing act goes wrong, leading him to fall and break his arm.

Post #5: Comics and Visual Narratives

Hey again!

Understanding Comics showed the power of simplifying images. Icons can be used to emphasize the core meaning of an image. By using icons rather than photo-realistic images, you can allow audiences to insert themselves into the story rather than push them out or take away their imagination with too much realism. This reminds me of how Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses uses the colors of a desert rather than a picture of the desert itself–it encourages audience imagination and engagement. On the other side of that, realism can be used to establish something as “other” or special. I would like to use text in the shape of images, colors of places in the story, and maybe use realism in my slides assignment to create scary characters. Words can be utilized in this way too–fewer words can allow the audience to fill in the blanks. There may be times when I want more vagueness or more specificity.

Gutters are another tool one can use in storytelling. They are the spaces between panels in comics or story elements. They connect the story, and hold unshown time and actions. These can be used the same way icons can be used. By intentionally not showing certain scene, you can build suspense and encourage audience imagination. Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses also does this. It uses silence/empty panels to represent the family working to understand one another. Us, as the audience, are left to imagine it. An empty panel in my slides assignment could be something ominous–the narrator being no longer able to continue telling the story.

Time can pass within a single panel–the audience’s eyes move throughout the image. Things like sound, dialogue, wide panels, and motion can add time. Don’t feel as though each slide must be done beat-by-beat, it can be interactive to let the audience’s eye wander. Alternatively, you can use one slide per moment to create a slower, trapped feel.


Post #4: Diagrammatic Fiction

Hey class!

Drucker’s Diagrammatic Writing discusses different forms of diagrammatic writing while using those strategies in its explanations. One of my favorite strategies was the use of surrounding a paragraph with other paragraphs to create a trapped or smaller feel to the contained dialogue. It changes the feel and impact of the words–they are coming from somewhere specific, rather than just text on a page. Context and placement impact the reception of the words. I also enjoyed the ability to have dialogue with your own writing. You can have a line stating something, then have another line commenting on it using footnotes, smaller lines between the larger lines, or side columns. I could use that for a character’s internal dialogue: the character could state something as a fact, then express self-doubt in smaller text beside it. I found this book genuinely fun, it reminded me of free form poetry.

Egan’s Great Rock n’ Roll Pauses is about a family and their relationships with one another. The protagonist, a twelve year old named Alison, describes her parents’ pasts, family dynamics, and the past couple of days through slide shows. The slides use colors, grouped words, spacing, arrows, shapes, and dialogue side-by-side to provide visuals for the scene and the pacing of the story. Alison’s father Drew struggles to connect with Alison’s brother Lincoln and doesn’t understand Lincoln’s obsession with the pauses in his favorite songs. Alison’s mother Sasha is more private about her past, though Alison repeatedly asks about the death of her mother’s friend. Her father is more open about the past, but is dealing with the stress of losing a patient. Conflict arises when Drew snaps at Lincoln while he is talking about music. Sasha explains to Drew the significance of the pauses in songs, and Drew and Alison go for a walk through the desert. Drew expresses that he wishes to do better.

I personally love the way the story presents dialogue between characters. Having each line of dialogue appear in a separate bubble connected to other bubbles creates an interesting rhythm and visuals. It almost makes the conversations feel more natural, they’re just things a father and daughter would say when walking through a desert together. I also enjoyed how Great Rock n’ Roll presented characters’ thought processes, like how it showed how Lincoln wants to show that he loves his dad by sharing his interests with him. The story also used colors and some shapes to present the visuals of a scene, like the desert, without actually putting a picture of a desert in the slides. The presence or absence of color and dialogue added to the immersion and impact of the story.


Post #3: Non-Aristotelian Plot Structures

Hey class,

Meshes of the Afternoon does not have an Aristotelian plot structure, as there is no one clear conflict that leads the story. The film instead uses the mystery of the story, the actions of the characters, and new clues to pull the plot forward. The camera follows the protagonist as she explores her surroundings and make connections as to what is going on and highlights important objects and patterns. The story captures the audience’s attention with the mystery of the appearing flower that seems to be dropped from an arm in the sky. It then pulls the audience’s attention to the state of the house–bread half-cut, a window open, the record playing left playing, and the phone left off the base despite no one seemingly being home.

Despite having a different, and certainly more vague, plot structure, there is still conflict throughout the story. Conflict is introduced with the reappearance of the knife and the mystery of the dream world. The protagonist finds herself chasing the flower and the mysterious figure over and over again as the scene repeats and she watches each new version of herself appear each cycle. Gravity and physics are not on her side, as she has difficulties moving around the house. She watches as the knife is placed in her bed. She fights with the logic of the dream world to try to stab her sleeping form and wake up. However, this just changes the dream. She is eventually found dead. These keep the audience’s attention and keep the action going.

The story makes me curious, and reminds me of stories like Alice in Wonderland that have seemingly nonsensical logic and a strange, other-worldly feel. Though the world and environment are well-established, the mysteries are left unexplained. The music, focus on shadows and hands rather than faces, and reoccurring knife give a tense, dangerous feel to the film.

The story has several patterns, and the film introduces new information with each loop. The flower, key, and knife are significant items that reappear throughout the story, and the protagonist travels to the same locations in the same order in each loop. The story presents information, presents a repeating pattern using that information, and presents new conflicts and clues into those patterns.


Post #2: Fargo and Aristotle

Hey again class,

In Fargo, the plot moves forward and pushes characters’ actions by putting many of them under massive amounts of stress. Jerry is worried about money and is desperate. Carl and Gaear need to pull off this job without being caught and arrested. Jean is in danger. Wade is worried about his daughter. Marge needs to find the culprits before they kill more people. The catalyst of the deaths in this movie begins when Carl and Gaear are presented with one minor problem—a state trooper pulling them over—which escalates the tense, but simple situation to a messy catastrophe. Jerry and Carl make rash decisions to try to fix their mistakes, only to make their situations worse. They push other characters to rash decisions as well via their mistakes. Jerry’s flaws are exacerbated as he is put under more stress, eventually leading him to covering up the murder of his father-in-law, Wade. Jerry is not equipped to handle the all the death, despite his actions leading to what caused it.

I see the movie Fargo as a good example of how Aristotle defines Tragedy. In chapter 6 of his book The Poetics, Aristotle defines tragedy as “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself.” The movie Fargo imitates a real-world event that happened in Minnesota in 1987. Fargo also imitates the actions, life, and emotions of the invented story. The characters are presented with the high-stakes pressure of money and crime—it has very serious and significant elements like death. Aristotle also defines the six parts of tragedy as being Fable/Plot, Characters, Diction, Melody, Thought, and Spectacle. Fargo contains a Fable, showing the audience the incidences of the story, Character in presenting moral differences in each of the characters, Diction in the composition of lines, Melody in scenes where no words are necessary for the audience to understand, Thought in the characters expressing their truths, and Spectacle in the existence of the film.

Fargo also invites both fear and pity from the audience, as mentioned by Aristotle in chapter 9. Characters graphically die left and right—audiences don’t know who will survive in the end. This could lead to fear. Fargo invites pity for the characters by showing their fear, pain, humanity, and regret. Jerry’s voice becomes quiet and his body language turns inward when he asks if Jean is okay. Gaear, despite all his violence towards others, enjoys watching drama TV. These traits don’t redeem the characters, but do show the audience that they are human beings.


Post #1: Introduction

Hey class!

I’m Nathan, I’m an anthropology major and an English minor. I have a strong passion for stories and writing, so minoring in English was more self-indulgent than anything. This is my first DTC class. My two favorite genres are fantasy and horror, magic fantasy adventures being my go-to for most things. But there will always be a place in my heart for a good horror story. The story medias I typically consume are novels/books, comics (both traditionally published comics and webcomics), podcasts/audio dramas, and videogames. I’d count some music as well, I like songs with lyrics that tell a story. I’ve been reading fiction novels for as long as I can remember, and I grew up with comedy comic books like Garfield and Peanuts. I eventually expanded my comic repertoire as I grew up to include things like The Legend of Zelda comics. 

When creating my own stories, I prefer writing fiction and drawing comics. I’ve wanted to write stories and draw comics since I was a little kid. I briefly dabbled in game creation and 3D animation back in high school, which were fun, but I personally prefer writing and drawing. I typically do traditional art (as in paper and pen, pencils, watercolors, etc.) but I also enjoy drawing digital art too. Another love of mine is collaborative storytelling with friends using tabletop role-playing games. It’s fun to see the kinds of characters and worlds other people will create and combining different peoples’ styles with your own.

Nice to meet you all!