Final Project Plan

My final project is going to be an HTML/CSS website that centers around exploring a long-ruined castle filled with eccentric guests. There is a supernatural twist regarding the castle and its inhabitants I don’t want to spoil, but I’m very excited about implementing. 

I plan to give it a gameboy adjacent aesthetic (swampy, muted color palette, pixelated, chiptune music) and give each character a little animated sprite. 

I’ll obviously be incorporating our module about games and hypermedia, but also the module about structures of storytelling- this will definitely mirror episodic structures the most, with hints of the kishotenketsu. Looking forward to you all seeing it!

Symbols Blog Post

In Book from the Ground by Bing Xu, the author employs indices as the (nearly) sole means of communicating the narrative. The index of the eye shut and subsequently open is an indication of waking up- it is not wholly abstract, neither a direct representation of its meaning. Much like paw prints are an indication of animal mobility, the visual aids (indexes) employed here rely on the implication of action.

This means that the experience of the story is intuited between indices (excepting Xu’s use of ellipses, which are a symbol. They require cultural context to decipher). The author has, to an extent, consciously obscured the narrative. The content offers little more than a nameless character waking up and going about their day- the obfuscation of this process through index is what makes it entertaining and compelling.

I think this reinforces the idea that subject is arbitrary to storytelling- the way you portray your subject, the medium of it, the unfurling of the narrative, is all that really matters as far as emotional response within the viewer. I already use signs in my stories (everybody does), but this experience has made me far more conscious of them than I ever was. I will definitely think more about the way I’m using signs and differentiate their category and uses.

Video Game Blog Post

One of my favorite examples of storytelling in videogames is Bloodborne- The impact of the narrative would be largely nullified if translated to any other medium. The game depicts a Victorian city infested with supernatural beasts and Lovecraftian horrors, and only a vague sense of player motivation. 

Almost every storytelling beat feels more decipherable than discoverable- the characters are alluring but cryptic, the world rich but merciless. The depth of each encounter scales with how much you as the player are willing to invest in the world- are you slaughtering a nameless animal, or have you in some way committed an act more insidious? 

The motifs of the game are noticeable but subtle- Futility, hubris, femininity and childbirth- they’re all present but never overt. The gameplay is as fittingly oppressive as the world you’re thrown into, fraught with (of course) blood and repeated deaths. 

The harsh nature of the game makes the quiet pockets of optimism that much more impactful. The moon is dripping red with blood, but it is also a thing of beauty- the diametric ideas of horror and beauty intersecting are buttressed by the strong gameplay and player agency.

Hyperlink Blog Post

I believe that all three of these works can be considered stories. You could get lost in the weeds defining the borders of narrative, but as far as delivering a world with coherent characters and themes I think these hyperlink works are as much a story as a traditional novel would be. 

My Boyfriend Came Back from the War is the most ambiguous of the works. Even so, there is still a clear central relationship it explores. Its sequence is subject to player agency, but piecing together its contents is an intentional aspect of the story. 

With Those We Love Alive presents the most convincing and transportive world of the bunch, embracing a medieval fantasy aesthetic. All of the works maintain engagement partly through convenience of the medium- navigating links requires constant interaction with your device and, by extension, the world of the narrative. 

I detect plot and character development in all of the stories. Obviously How to Rob a Bank is comedic in tone but there is still a trajectory to the central character. The navigation structures, even with the stories that are not sequenced in a chronologically linear fashion, still imply a single unfolding timeline that the reader can sensibly derive. 

This assortment of hyperlink stories exist on a spectrum of linearity and temporal legibility, but nonetheless are equal in their validity as stories and works of art.

Cinema Language

The most obvious difference regarding “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” between both mediums is the implementation of film techniques to imply emotions and story beats that are otherwise explicitly stated in its prose counterpart- Words are transferable to film, but employing its visual language is mutually exclusive to movies. 

The explicit exploration of Peyton’s life is absent in the film, as well as a lot of instances in which emotion is transcribed to the reader. The prose invokes words like “impatience” and “apprehension” as he awaits his fate. The episode uses slow, deliberate camera movements to manufacture a sense of foreboding, and uses cuts to contextualize the point of view of Peyton- his nervous glances and sweat-slicked face and the cuts to the environment are more than enough to get a sense of his thought process. 

The most impressive bit of filmmaking- and divergence from the source- comes at the conclusion, where the locked-down camera and surreal, suddenly synthetically manicured trees foreshadow what’s about to happen. The use of cuts as Peyton reunites with his wife dilate time in a way that written word is incapable of; The two are maneuvering through the same space repeatedly, making their collision seem almost asymptotical, like a lifetime of anticipation and memory building and then flickering out. It’s an effective translation of the story. 

The match cut is a classic cinematic tool, and employed effectively here to translate the gut punch of the final sentence. The sudden head turn and neck snap create a visual synchrony and visual coherence to the prose of the story. 

Visual Narrative I Blog

After reading Scott McCloud’s explanation of the way that time and ambiguous spaces are interpreted within media, I’m excited to use his ideas in my own project; Even mediums like film that utilize visibly seamless methods of transmitting images rely on the brain to fill in gaps between the 24 frames per second, and I really liked how McCloud elaborated on the opportunities this provides us as storytellers. In comics (or a diagrammatic narrative), this split is infinitely more emphasized, 

I especially thought his portrayal of “non-sequiturs” was fascinating and something I’d want to replicate. The contrast of two seemingly unrelated images that are obviously linked in some way is just a really potent narrative tool. Especially when working within a tighter timeframe and smaller scale story, using this method helps evoke meaning and interpretation with an economy of space. 

A trope I love in comics or manga is an ending panel that recontextualizes the entire story- pulling away, geographically or chronologically, from the bulk of the narrative and revealing some new piece of information. In the end it’s all about showing and withholding information, and McCloud’s exploration of this idea has been inspiring for my own future work. 

Five Story Summaries

Five Story Summaries

1 – Aristotelian Structure

Act one – Frey and Jesse are vagabond bounty hunters wandering the last, straggled breaths of a dying American west. They accept a job from an arms-dealing businessman to save his daughter, Anna, from the grasp of a cult called the Blood Angels.

The angels are lying out in a fort, and the pair make plans to infiltrate it after sunset. While Frey manages to save Anna, Jesse is wounded, caught, and thrown in a cell. Frey and Anna reconvene in a small village, where they spend the advance reward money to hire two mercenaries.

Act two – The group returns to the fort to rescue Jesse, only to find that the angels have fled and are making their way to the West coast. They press on for several days, and eventually overtake them on the outskirts of a city, only to realize the cult has convened with its other sects, and their numbers have grown tenfold. The hired mercenaries flee. While Anna and Frey camp out, they are surrounded in the night and thrown into confinement with Jesse.

Act three – Jesse is injured, his wound infected, but he informs them that the Angels accept duel propositions from prisoners on the grounds of their fictive religion as long as they have a weapon. Jesse is immobile and Frey admits they took her gun.

The three are brought before the cult leader to receive judgment- Anna procures a hidden revolver from her ankle and proposes a duel. She narrowly wins, and the trio flees into the sunset.

2 – Kishotenketsu

For the first two acts of this story, we are introduced to Ben- he works at a hardware store and seems relatively unassuming, but he has troubles connecting with others. He hesitantly befriends a coworker named Aiden. The second act illuminates that Ben has a habit of stealing lightbulbs as he leaves work everyday. Aiden begins picking up Ben to take him to work, as he has no car.

In the third act twist, we find out he is obsessed with lighting fixtures after a personal incident that occurred in the lighting section of a hardware store. His house ceiling is plastered in chandeliers, lanterns, hanging lights, etc, making it almost unnavigable.

In the fourth act, the lights are shut off, and he has an episode, refusing to leave his house, unable to sleep, eat, or respond to texts. Eventually, Aiden visits the house, finding Ben in this state. He realizes there is an issue with the breaker and gets the lights back on. The two share a meal on the hallway floor, under the lights.

3 – Episodic Structure

The story takes place in an underground habitat called the Mulberry Warrens at winter, a burrow filled with a variety of woodland creatures i.e. Redwall. Wintertime is organically a period of hibernating and isolation from the outside world- the thematic through line would be exploring loneliness, relationships, and self improvement as the main character (A vole named Ada) waits out the snow. It would permeate comfort and lead into the final ‘episode’ being some parallel to a Christmas celebration. One episode would explore the harsh wildlife outside the warrens, but most might delve into events like feast preparations or other relatively low-stakes, interpersonal chapters.

4- Surrealist mode

1920s New York – A host of disparate and enigmatic guests flock to a lavish art installation advertised with the ability to grant its observer’s desires. At the request of an anonymous letter left at her apartment doorstep, detective Gail Ballard devises a plan to infiltrate the exhibition’s strict guest list. When she arrives, she finds herself in a parallel, architecturally abstract New York populated with stranded characters plucked across two centuries of time, with a massive, humanoid silhouette etched into the horizon where the moon should be. She finds most of this world’s inhabitants have succumbed to a fungal parasite that grants them sickly appearances and senile, exaggerated personalities. The story explores her interactions with these characters and her eventual attempts to get home.

5 – Personal Anecdote

I could probably structure some work stories episodically for this section! I have a lot of small, fun anecdotes but nothing I can think of that would function as a satisfying arc. I could use the time someone threatened to shoot us, when a coworker spilled a comically massive keg of beer in the hallway minutes before the building inspector was scheduled to get there, or when another coworker was convinced an auditorium was haunted.

Great Rock N’ Roll Analysis

“She says they’re precious because they’re casual and meaningless.”

The plot of ‘Great Rock N’ Roll Pauses’ unfolds through the slight interactions and dynamics of a family, as portrayed through diagrammatic slides. This is the most immediate quality of the story- the sequence and meaning of each diagram within the slide isn’t always immediately intuitive, and often provokes rereads. While each text item or symbol is linked, you often have to process the connection yourself, as opposed to a medium like the novel, where the content is instantly sequential. The elements of plot reveal themselves through analysis and connection of phrases and character in each diagram.

The main instance of conflict in the story comes from Lincoln’s fixation with pauses in songs- an obsession that his father fails to connect or interact with. There are other conflicts, like the mother’s past and art, and the relationships between each of those in the family, though the thread of Lincoln’s fixation remains the core.

The conflict is resolved when Alison, the daughter, goes on a walk in the desert with her dad after he shouts at Lincoln. The two discuss how the father can improve; The thematic conflict of the passage of time and existential fears is also resolved by the end of the walk, as Alison dreads that her own home and family won’t be waiting for her by the time they arrive (an unfounded fear, which leads to an understated and comforting ending).

The character’s changes are internal, and are often revealed through Allison’s interpretations of their behavior: She assigns meaning to dialogue, action, and geography, in a method enhanced by the visual layout of each diagram. This all prompted my own thinking on how to structure a diagrammatic story- I really enjoy how the author trusts the reader to dissect the writing. There is a threshold of engagement that I find rewarding and would love to replicate.

[ I’m not sure if it would fall under diagrammatic storytelling, but this kind of reminded me of ‘What Football Will Look Like in the Future,’ which is a really cool online narrative you should check out! ]