Attached below is my final project for the semester. I chose to do a Twine project to convey the internal and external emotions of the central character. The project is based on true events, and the experiences of the character role (you) are very different depending on which branch of the military you decide to enlist in after High School. Unlike my last Twine project, this story has no sound; however, I felt that given the tone of the presentation, the music would have only served as a distraction rather than add any substance to the narrative. There is only one background image that flows through the entire work, but it suits the story perfectly.
After watching Ira Glass’s discussion on the basics of storytelling, I was able to get a good idea of the essential components involved in engaging audience participation. Glass breaks down any good story into two parts, the anecdote and the moment of reflection. The anecdote describes a sequence of events in which one event leads to the next. The anecdote is comprised of the bait and the action in which the bait draws in the audience, and the action is the most exciting element of a story. The proceeding details of the story will answer any questions the anecdote raises. This persistent act of generating questions in a story results in generating engagement.
Glass describes the moment of reflection as the climax or the whole reason why the audience is engaged with the story in the first place. Predictable or flat moments of reflection lead to issues in storytelling. Glass finally describes the essence of compelling storytelling as an interwoven series of the anecdote and the moment of reflection going back and forth and building off of one another.
J.J Abrams’ TED talk made me consider what I could do to improve my final project. Abrams suggests that sometimes the most exciting or touching elements of a story of what you leave out, which made me think of McCloud’s discussion on closure. Not every thought or action needs to be disclosed in storytelling, therefore leaving something out can create mystery. One of my favorite topics Abrams covers in his discussion is investing in the characters. Although my final project will be centered around depression, poor decision making, and potentially alcoholism, the audience will not resonate or even care if my story hasn’t substantially invested in my central character.
After completing the fiction story Pry, I was impressed by the level of interaction the reader must comply with to progress through the narrative. The images attached below stood out to me and revealed subtle details that were key in uncovering and concluding the story. The most creative concept illustrated in Pry was the ability of the reader to pinch the screen to reveal James’s subconscious and pinch out the screen to show the central character’s point of view. The top left image stems from chapter one, revealing a mysterious woman that piques the audience’s curiosity of her origin. The story would later disclose that the woman (Jessie) was killed by an explosive ordinance in the Gulf war. Jessie could not have possibly been in the same room as James during the events of chapter one, James keeps seeing the ghost of Jessie everywhere.
The second image is not critical to the central plot; however, the use of brail is a creative approach to portraying James’ loss of vision. The brail book was from his mother, which may speak to a hereditary loss of vision in James’ family. The third image is from chapter six, and this is arguably the most captivating sequence in the whole narrative. In this image, the events that occurred during the gulf war are unveiled, such as Jessie’s relationship with James and Luke, Jessie’s death, and why James holds on to the guilt of Jessie’s demise. Finally, the last image is from James’ subconscious and symbolizes the bomb that dropped on Jessie’s barracks that ultimately killed her.
Pry is a fictitious story; however, it speaks about PTSD and the burden of guilt that can affect a person’s life long after the dust has settled. The use of the pinch feature was brilliant, as it allowed the audience to visualize not only what was happening in James’ daily life, but what his mind was thinking simultaneously. The reader is continuously bombarded with flashing images and eerie sounds, but this only adds to the authenticity of what James’ mental state is. Pry is a work of art and sets the standard for hypermedia and hypertext in the twenty-first century.
The game I explored was Galatea by Emily Short. The story revolves around an art critic who is at the opening of a gallery and discovers a statue of a woman who can speak, think, and feel emotion. The game involves asking the “right” questions to get a better gauge of the statue’s origins, her creator, and her journey to the gallery. Since the interactor (me) has no basis on the right questions to ask the statue, It becomes a situation of trial and error to uncover the mysteries behind the statue.
The puzzle component of the game (asking the right questions to get a response) is crucial to finding meaning in the work. If a player were to launch this game without taking the initiative to prod the statue for intimate details, then the player would quickly become bored with the narrative and exit the game with only a meniscal perspective of what the purpose of the game was. There are no clear goals or objectives in this game; the player must use their imagination and detective skills to unlock the full experience of the work. The player can invest as much or as little attention into the work as he or she wants. The rewards for digging a little deeper into the backstory is its own reward. After toying around with Galatea for half an hour or so, I was able to get the gist of the history of the statue, and it made for an entertaining and imaginative experience. Works such as this engage the player’s imagination by forcing them to step outside of conventional path specific games and inviting them to create their own narrative experience.
Kate Pullinger’s Inanimate Alice short story utilizes various symbols, indices, and icons to demonstrate a multimodal process of communication. The multimodal process is a combination of sign types, including writing, symbols, images, maps, gestures, music, voice, etc. The author of this particular work uses symbols to stimulate the senses and illustrate a story where the reader can experience the narrative more than simply imagine the sequence of events.
For example, in the story when Alice describes where she is from, the home her family lives in, or even the character she likes to draw on her mobile device, the author implements icons and indices to provide visual aids for the reader to get a sense of what it is like to be Alice. The author also chose to embed various signs alongside the border of the short story for navigation purposes. If the reader of the short story would like to explore a previous scene, they would merely navigate to the appropriate icon on the page that corresponds to the part of the story that they wish to revisit.
Although the idea for my final project does not resemble Pullinger’s work, symbols can be incorporated into any visual presentation. All storytelling is in signs, and therefore storytelling through visual works and visual media can also be comprised of signs. From the choice of camera angles, still frame, or portrayal of a particular thing or idea through the lens of a camera, we are surrounded by various signs. I will primarily be using on-screen dialogue (various symbols) to give my viewers an alternative mode of inner-monologue.
The two hypertext/ hypermedia stories I choose to analyze this week were Found Floppy, and With Those We Love Alive. Found Floppy is an excellent example of a hypermedia work that takes the audience into the contents of a floppy disk. The story illustrated is chilling, and it describes the owner of the floppy disk’s personal history of sexual and physical abuse to explain why he is inherently incapable of helping another assault victim who lives next door to him. The owner of the floppy disk has not dealt with his own trauma and therefore is unwilling to help the female victim next door with her dilemma despite her countless efforts to connect with him.
Found Floppy utilizes interactive clickable media to immerse the audience into the story world. Although there are very few clickable links in the work, the author Andy Campbell keeps the reader engaged by forcing them to decipher the story through confusing computer code to uncover more of the unnerving tale. Campbell’s navigation structure relies on browsing through the contents of the floppy disk to immerse the reader into the story. The structure of this particular work is linear as each file can be read from top to bottom, left to right to get a clear picture of how the story unfolds. The author’s use of computer code can be best understood as signs used to conceal the narrative to the reader unless they fully immerse themselves in the work. There will be no shortcuts in uncovering how the story ends.
Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive is an interesting approach to hypertext media. I do not believe this work can be considered a story because of the absence of several crucial elements to a story, including a distinct plot, conflict, central characters, or a conclusion. The work does accomplish the task of immersing the reader into the tale world by utilizing hypertext links to progress the character through the strange world described in the work. The hypertext and the changing soundtrack are the two main elements that keep the reader engaged. Linear sequencing is not precise in this work, nor is it essential. The author’s focus on creating this hypertext project is to engage the senses and bring the reader into a new world. An emphasis on the reader’s experience trumps the need for a clear narrative.
After watching the Twilight Zone’s adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek I noticed some distinct differences in the film version compared to the short story version. The film version relied heavily on cinematic tactics such as long pane shots, montages, match on action sequences, and point of view shots to capture the suspense and tension in the visual work. Since the short film had very limited dialogue, the crew relied heavily on camera angles and positions to illustrate the mood of the scene and the emotions of the central character. The short story provides in-depth descriptions of the atmosphere, the characters, and the sights and sounds of the setting to fully engross the reader into the story without the use of visual aids. The literature version of the story also allows readers access to Peyton’s thoughts and inner monologue. There is no need to convey Peyton’s thoughts through words in the film version because the cinematic tactics listed above accurately describe his feelings.
Another notable difference between these two adaptations is the presence of the background story that lead to Peyton being sentenced to death by hanging. The film version chooses to skip over the backstory in order to illustrate a story focused more on Peyton’s rapidly changing circumstances and emotional state.
The film does an excellent job of portraying a scene of confusion, eagerness, and anxiety. The pace of the narrative starts off slow at the beginning of Peyton’s hanging and then quickens significantly once he makes his escape. The shot compositions of close-ups, Point of views, and match on action sequences are appropriate in the changing the tone of the narrative from somber, to exciting, back to fear, and then ultimately to sadness.
The images above illustrate some of the transitions that McCloud outlines in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. In the first image, stagnant chess pieces are revealed on a chessboard in my office. The second image shows an action-to-action transition in which a single subject (the rook chess piece) has taken the pawn chess piece off the board with explicit action (McCloud 1993:70). The third and fourth images show a subject-to-subject transition between two subjects (my wife and I) as we deliberate over lunch while still painting presence in the given scene (McCloud 1993:71). Another transition occurs between images four and five as the viewer is transported from my office to a view of the backyard (a picture taken a year ago). McCloud describes this transition as scene-to-scene in which the audience is “transported between significant distances of time and space” (McCloud 1993:71). Finally, image six conveys a non-sequitur transition in which “no logical relationship exists between panels” (McCloud 1993:72). The short story above illustrates three of the six transitions that occur in comics and other visual narratives that McCloud addresses in his work.
After reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, I developed a new appreciation for the art that is comics. I never grasped the concepts that comics frequently implemented to progress time, allow the audience to participate through closure, express emotion and mood through lines and color, and engage senses through synaesthetics. Comic book creators do not merely tell a story; they utilize all of the concepts mentioned above to express their message through sequential art to encapsulate the reader into a new world. McCloud said it best with his concluding statement that comics fulfill “the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see” (1993:213). How creators choose to express their artistic needs is up to them, and the possibilities are endless.
McCloud’s ideas have motivated me to be mindful of time and space in my visual narrative project. Before reading McCloud’s work, I would have relied heavily on viewer closure or “mentally constructing a continuous unified reality” to progress time through various pictures (1993:67). Although McCloud states that closure is an essential part of comic books because it allows the audience to voluntarily fill in the gaps with their interpretation through active participation, I believe there needs to be a balance. Since “there is no conversion chart” for the audience to conceptualize time and space in artistic works, there needs to be a balance of allowing closure and illustrating time progression throughout my visual narrative (McCloud 1993:100). Another concept I will be executing in my upcoming project is expressing mood with color. For example, my project will be able to accurately depict happiness and somber with colors that accurately illustrate those emotions. I believe this will be key to further engrossing the reader into my world.
Johanna Drucker and Jennifer Egan have both outlined some interesting ideas and concepts in their typographic works. Drucker employs uses of effects such as embedment, entanglement, disruption, columns, hierarchies, gutters, ingesting text, and marginal insertions that draw the eye and encourage attentiveness from the reader. Although Egan’s story was captivating, her use of various colors, shapes, charts, and workflows were disorienting. These authors have inspired me to get creative with my typographic story by demonstrating the multiple ways that stories can unfold in an unconventional and non-linear fashion.
What Drucker eloquently discusses in her work Diagrammatic Writing aside from typographic concepts are strategies and sound pieces of advice when creating your typographic work. Drucker points out that “the first words placed define the space,” therefore describing how balance is maintained throughout the page based on the initial statement (2013:3). Druker also describes how “every decision has an effect on every other,” this statement illustrates how every decision made whether it be word alignment, space, or size will affect the sequence of your typographic work for each proceeding page (2013:3-4). Emphasis can be obtained through static space that projects “rhetorical force” to readers who interpret the statements as identifiable, distinct, and explicit (Drucker 2013:4). Sequence and structure are discussed further by listing four essential rules to remember:
1) Numbered sections have their own autonomy and not.
2) The modularity of these units, though ordered, allows them to operate without clear segues.
3) Any statement can be put into a numbered sequence.
4) A final line is not a conclusion, just an addition. Continuous reading and discontinuous reading occur in the same text spaces. The format does not determine reading but does structure the possible intervention
These concepts described in Drucker’s work are instrumental in maintaining structure, sequence, emphasis, pacing, and rhythm in typographic works.