Evan Renfro

Peer Critique




It ain’t much yet

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Final Project Ideation

I really enjoyed using Twine for this last project, so I want to continue exploring that. I don’t think I pushed my project nearly as far as I could have, and I want to try many more things and expand on the story I began. The story will continue where The Killer Among the Stars left off. It will be largely based in Twine, almost entirely. I’m not yet sure what other modules I want to include, but potentially see working with diagrammatic narrative and large, full, one-panel comics.

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The Storytelling of Games

Storytelling in video games has a rich history. To this day, games are proving themselves in the world of narrative, standing alongside the media giants of television and movies.

A recent personal standout is Elden Ring. The player experience begins with an intro cinematic that presents some of the lore of the game. Grandiose and mystifying, the cinematic tells of the shattered Elden Ring, slain gods, and introduces a group of powerful Tarnished characters, the player being the last of them. It sets the whole game narrative in motion brilliantly.

Once the gameplay begins, the player slowly reveals more of the story. Bits of lore are discovered through item descriptions and dialogue. As the player moves through the game, they push the story forward as well, as defeating bosses has an impact on the world and progression. This adds to the beautiful sense of wonder established by the cinematic, and only seems to grow.


I want to give props to another smaller game, too. The storytelling in Journey is also beautiful and engaging. This game has no dialogue or text, which leaves the worldbuilding much more up to the imagination. In this game, you play as a humanoid creature set to wander around a desert and various other environments. The beauty in this game’s worldbuilding is in its openness to interpretation. The player sees a few different cutscenes in the game when moving between areas. These are wordlessly shown in animated scenes reminiscent of cave paintings or something similar. A sense of the ancient world that was there before the player emerges through the game experience. Wonder and beauty are what pique the interest in this game’s story.

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The Semiotic Triad of Symbols, Indexes, and Icons

CityFish, J.R. Carpenter’s semi-interactive work, is positively brimming with symbols, indexes, and icons. All of these serve alongside text to deliver the narrative.

As the user scrolls through the sideways-moving world of CityFish, they come across paragraphs that have been paired up with supplementary images, such as Chinese characters when the story moves into New York City’s Chinatown. The layout of the story is mostly icons, with symbols taking the second seat on the podium and indexes third. The reason for the icons is their supplementary nature previously mentioned. They serve as direct representations or expansions of the imagery provided in the text. These additions help propel the plot forward because they give a fuller sense of what is happening, similarly to Action-to-Action and Non-Sequitur  transitions as described by Scott McCloud. Without the text, you wouldn’t really know what was happening, though you could piece it together. The text glues these icons together.

Iconography helps you to interact with the story through the character’s eyes. Most of the images presented in the icons are directly what Lynne sees. Aside from these more direct images, we also get maps, which help give the setting and feeling of the story. This is helpful for generating usage ideas in my own work. I really enjoy the escapism of storytelling, as seen in CityFish, can add another layer on top of the story reading experience.

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Hypertext Stories

I believe that all the examples presented in this week’s readings are considered stories. Each of them presents an intriguing way of telling their own series of events. Some are more linear, like How to Rob a Bank, while the others are looser.

The way that With Those  We Love Alive presents its narrative is similar to a choose-your-own-adventure book. There are several possibilities at most junctures in the story. Locations are presented to the user, and different items are interacted with in each. The user can also dictate some of the details of the story by interacting with the purple links. Purple links are able to be changed until the user decides they’re satisfied, then can be locked in place with a final click.

My Boyfriend Came Back from the War is even more open and freeform than the prior work. There are many options at most points through the story, divided up into sections. You can read through a section, clicking and moving it along, but you can also go between different sections. The user determines the speed at which each piece of narrative is developed, which creates for a very large range of possibilities. Sections also break up into smaller sections after a certain amount of development. The user needs to piece together much more of the story here, as it’s delivered in very small fragments.

How to Rob a Bank is such a product of a particular time. It’s like a time capsule, in a way. Everything is delivered to the user through screen captures. Emails, texts, news articles, Google searches. The series of events here is the most linear. The user has no choices other than to simply progress forward.

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Diagrammatic Story (Interesting Title)

Here ya go!



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The Occurrences Between Film and Word

The short film adaptation of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge delivered the story very faithfully to the original. In both, the scene is set in a highly detailed manner. Subject to subject transitions provide the reader/viewer a well-established sense of the space in which the plot begins. In the story, these are written. In the film, these take the form of long opening shots. Starting wide and narrowing in, they take the scene from large and open to right on the man about to be hanged.

The largest difference between film and story comes in the second section of Bierce’s original. This background section is omitted from the film entirely, which is a suitable translation. In it, we get a flashback to our main character relaxing with his wife and talking with a soldier about the Yankees repairing the railroads nearby. This is fitting because it leaves the short film to be about a particular moment, opening it up to more imaginative viewing. If the background scene were to be included, it would take away the mystery enveloping the scene. It would also feel much less like an episode of The Twilight Zone. 

The final section of the story is similar to the first in its presentation. Sticking much more to the source material, we get slow shots at first, but as the man realizes his situation of being hanged and drowned, the shots speed up with his panic. And like the original, the realization that he’s been in a dream-like flash before his eyes comes suddenly.

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Visual Storytelling

These pictures tell the story of getting ready to practice piano or have a lesson. The first three transitions are aspect to aspect, serving as a means to set the scene and establish the mood. The last two transitions are action to action, showing the logical progression of steps taken to start practicing.

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Visual Narrative Outside The Frame

McCloud’s discussion of gutters was a very interesting read. The mind is incredibly good at filling in gaps within the smallest of spaces. The idea of being able to create bridges between even quite distinct images is something to consider. Something that I would like to potentially bring over to my own storytelling is the idea of creating a landscape or fuller picture of a setting. The idea of the 5th type of transition, much more present in Eastern comics than Western, is a good example of this concept. When shown a pot of boiling water, vegetables being chopped, a woman in an apron, and a ticking timer, we can put together an entire mental kitchen. Even complete with sounds, smells, maybe even feelings and tastes. By using separate but interconnected imagery, we can conjure entire worlds and concepts that one image alone wouldn’t suffice.

I also really enjoyed seeing the panel full of action and dialogue, simultaneously depicting a single moment and at least half a minute. The idea of a moment being made up of many different moments was intriguing. Clearly, it takes time to say and hear words. By keeping that in mind, it takes the time in comics to another level.

Another interesting idea presented was putting the reader in the action, usually done in Eastern comics. This idea is essentially a main character POV or putting the frame right in the action. I believe that this can connect tot he idea of gutters as well as time, creating opportunities for what I would call long mental action shots.

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5 Story Summaries


Act One –

Jacob had assembled his friend group. Everyone was here! James and his brother Manny, the Parkwell twins, and so many more. They were gathered to watch the newest movie in the series that brought them together in childhood. Finally it was getting a new installment! The air was brimming with electricity and chatter as they all bought their popcorn. They buttered it up and headed to their seats.

The movie went by quickly for how long it was. The friends exited the movie theater and gathered around one of their cars to discuss.

“Well, that sucked” was the general consensus, along with feelings of “why did they have to make that?” and “it felt so short”.

Act Two –

The evening of the big game. Stadium packed to capacity. Sweat. Heat. The energy of thousands of people. The world is watching. A light flickers. One member of the crowd lets out a shout of excitement. One turns into all as the stadium erupts into audible joy. The players slowly make their way onto the field. All the lights flicker. The players stop and look up as all the stadium lighting shuts off. The crowd, not five minutes ago louder than a concert, has fallen silent.

Ten excruciating minutes later, the announcement is made:

“The game is canceled.”

Act Three –

The world’s top scientists gathered for the viewing party of a historic volcanic eruption. Teams from various countries, including the United States, Germany, and Japan, prepared seismographs, walkie-talkies, and evacuation plans. The volcano, the only active one of its kind, hadn’t erupted with this magnitude in centuries. Scientists expected a 6.5 to 7.5 Richter scale reading with an explosion radius of 8 to 10 kilometers.

The seismographs read 9.7 before being buried in ash. The eruption was a disaster that no one could have prepared for.



     The morning was cool and crisp, with a thick layer of fog rolling in over the hills. Sunlight glinted through the fog, allowing the roosters to recognize the morning. I was awoken by their joyous and irritating cries of “cock-a-doodle-doo”.

Who am I? I’m Michael Flynn, a farmer here in Ireland. I own several farms, including my agricultural farm where I work and live, and my bog, used to farm peat and turf.

I awoke and went to go check on the animals on my farm and to plan for the harvest. However, when I came to the hog enclosure, my prized pig was missing! “Oh Murphy, where have you gone?” I cried. I loved this pig more than most of my estranged children.

The hunt was on. I brought out my hunting dog for a better chance of finding my beloved Murphy. We searched high and low and alas, nothing. No sign of Murphy! I put up posters, hoping that some kind soul would return my pig.

As I was about to give up, I received a letter in the mail. A businessman from the next county over had found Murphy! I rushed to put on my best clothes and made my way to the door. It was then that I heard a sound from my closet.

I approached and opened the door. In my rush to get ready, I had failed to notice that Murphy was sleeping in my closet! He must have gotten in early this morning when I was out tending the fields! I picked him up and gave him a gigantic hug. “How I’ve missed you, Murphy! Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” It was when I thought I lost him when I truly realized how much he meant to me.



The move was off to a rough start for Annette. Changing from rural to downtown would definitely take some adjusting. But the city had this draw to it. It attracts many young souls like Annette. The bright lights, the huge buildings. She couldn’t help but feel drawn to it. The first week went pretty smoothly. All her things were unpacked, and though the apartment didn’t yet feel like home, she began to miss her previous house less and less.
Despite the move going well, the city was not what it seemed. The buildings and lights that so entranced Anette at first seemed almost menacing. They pulsed with a malevolent energy, and frightened her when she looked at them. The shadows always seemed to whisper her name in many voices. Eventually, she shut herself in her apartment, refusing to go out. Despite her fear, something held her there. She couldn’t leave the city that haunted her.
Every day, the lights grew brighter, coming ever closer to Anette’s shut blinds. At night, the shadows became ever louder, changing from whispers to full-on screams. Every hour she spent in the once exciting apartment tormented her. But leaving the apartment would be worse, she told herself. Her safest bet was to forever stay within the four apartment walls she imprisoned herself in.


Classical Aristotelian

     We see our main character, Kent Whitlock, at his desk. Scribbling away, he is in a state of relaxation and vibrant energy at the same time. Sketching is his favorite hobby, you see. The man’s mind is set in high gear, and the shift was ripped out a long time ago. “What is he sketching?” you might ask. Today, it’s an assignment from LEGO, where he works. You know that they’re always designing the latest and greatest there, at LEGO. Right now, Kent is working on a gigantic LEGO drum kit. This is one of his favorite ideas in a while, because he also loves playing the drums.

Now, we see Kent presenting his LEGO drum kit sketch. The room eats it up. His boss is impressed, and Kent is feeling great. Then he sees her. In the corner of the room, the only person not rocked by his presentation. Aubrey. All Kent knows about her is that she’s the newest designer on the team. And that she doesn’t like his LEGO drum kit, for some reason.

He’s going over to her desk, about 18 minutes after his presentation wraps. Asks why she didn’t like it. He could have worded it better, but that’s alright. She coldly tells him that she was working on a similar idea. He fumbles over an apology. Asks to see her design, which she pulls out of her desk drawer. Kent feels bad, and suggests that they collaborate.

“Wow, you’d really do that for me?”


Personal Anecdote

     It started with the dog book. They had always had this book of dog breeds in their house. Large, small. Colorful, black, white. Over three hundred breeds of dog. Who knew that there were so many? As children so often do, he voiced an unyielding favorite. One dog, so unlike the others. Page 300. The parents were unsure. Thought small dogs were annoying, yappy, maybe weak. They were Black Lab people, with a love for Blue Heelers as well. Despite the preferential differences, they considered it. Over time, their hesitation weakened, they even opened up to the idea.

Birthday party time! Such excitement in the air. The day goes perfectly. As the gift opening comes to a close (you could even say it was wrapping up), dad says they have one more. He goes to the garage, and comes out with a box. The child rushes to open it. It could be so many things!

A gasp. So many revelations within a second. It’s a dog! He never could have imagined. A beautiful dog, but not quite the dog of his dreams. A lovely stuffed animal that resembles his favorite breed. He cries, for it isn’t real. The parents get it now. This love goes deep. Dad comes over, places a gentle hand on the shoulder. Whispers in the ear:

“Don’t worry, we’ll get you a real pug.”

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Great Pauses In Music And In Story Layout

Wow! What a read. I absolutely adored both Great Rock n’Roll Pauses and Diagrammatic Writing. They really tickled my brain in unique and almost thrilling ways.


The plot of Great Rock n’Roll Pauses centers around the narrator’s family. It indicates the struggles they go through in a diagrammatic fashion. We see the Blake family through Allison’s eyes. She tells us of her older brother Lincoln’s fascination with pauses in older rock songs, of her father’s absences and gin and tonic crutch, and her mother’s attempts to bridge relational gaps while being in them herself. The conflict in this story comes from these relational gaps, which everyone struggles with sometimes, adding an interesting spark of relatability for many readers, most likely. It appears that the solution to this conflict is simply time, and allowing Allison’s self to realize how much she truly loves her family.

Allison, being our narrator and audience surrogate, is the character we can see most explicitly change throughout the story. She begins as what seems to mostly just be a 12 year old girl. There isn’t much to grasp at the beginning, save for her observations. But as one clicks through Great Rock n’Roll Pauses, the layers are peeled back on not only Allison but her whole family. She transforms from just an observant kid into our protagonist, surrounded by family strife and relational gaps. The pictures of each family member come more into a crisp focus, with more and more becoming implicitly revealed. The dad is shown to care about his family, but struggles with drinking and anger issues. We see him struggle to connect with Lincoln, but take a walk with Allison to come down. We see the mom attempt to mediate and focus on her art to avoid focusing on her familial troubles. We see Lincoln really focus on his rock pauses, to the point of connecting with little else.


The diagrammatic nature of the storytelling allows us to experience these revelations of character at a slow pace, and to feel them in a swirling vortex of time and plot. I know that second part may not make sense, so let me explain. Because of the nature of diagrammatic storytelling, as shown in the first reading, we can experience several things at the same time, unlike traditionally linear stories. We can see several characters at the same time, doing different things. Because of the layout of many slides, we can see different plot points or bits of history within the same breath. For instance, on slide 32, titled Mom’s “Art”, we simultaneously get glimpses of why Allison’s mom makes art (the bronze colored text boxes) and snippets of daily life for the Blakes. I believe that this story was masterfully told, and made for a wholly unique way of being told.

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Unconventional Structure: She & Her Cat

She & Her Cat is about seeing the character ‘she’ through her cat’s eyes. The short film is narrated by her cat, and it shows what appears to be their entire relationship. We see the cat growing fonder of her near the start of their relationship, and we hear that she received a saddening phone call before she leaves, presumably for ever. There isn’t much of a conflict because these two characters like each other, and nothing is displayed in detail. Because the narrator, our audience surrogate in a way, is a cat, very little detail is given in the plot. When she leaves for work, the cat says that he doesn’t know or care where she goes. She leaves, and she comes back. The short film is straightforward, almost exactly a narration of “this event happened, then this event happened”, with the feelings of the cat interspersed. We see that he gets a girlfriend who is another cat. He doesn’t like her nearly as much as she seems to like him, the only hint of a conflict we’re given. Near the middle of the film, a bit of the story is loosely told in many quick snapshots. Because I can’t read Japanese, I can’t discern what they say, but they don’t seem to move the story along as much as the cat narrator. This short film seems to be about the cat loving and trying to understand his owner. Towards the end of the movie, the cat wants to know the nature of the saddening phone call, and she leaves him in the apartment. The closing line is “This world, we love it” said in tandem by the cat and her, the only time we hear her voice.

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Jerry and Marge: Opposing Character Arcs

The plot in Fargo is delightfully wild. Introduced as a “true story”, the audience is immediately more dialed in to the story and characters from the get-go. We see Jerry engaging in a shady and ill-advised scheme to get money from his father-in-law. By setting up this contract, we see that Jerry believes his father-in-law wouldn’t give him money of his own accord, and neither would his wife. Two of his most immediate family members, and he believes neither of them would help him is he asked. An excellent setup for the relational strife ahead.

By being in this situation at the beginning of the movie, some sympathy can be directed Jerry’s way by the audience, but his continual downward spiral makes it really challenging to hold onto such sympathy. The plot is driven forward by things going wrong and getting worse, often because of him, and those events in turn drive Jerry deeper and deeper down his dark path. Driven by fear, which is a classic plot device in Greek tragedy. All of the events that befall Jerry compound. With each wrong turn, such as the parking lot sale going bust, he becomes angrier and more desperate for a solution. Any solution at any cost becomes his mode of operation towards the end of the film. The compounding tragic events in Jerry’s character arc can be described by this Poetics quote: “Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by surprise; and the effect is heightened when, at the same time, they follow as cause and effect. The tragic wonder will thee be greater than if they happened of themselves or by accident; for even coincidences are most striking when they have an air of design.”

Marge is an interesting comparison as the second main character of Fargo. We are introduced to her as a reliable, competent police officer. She has a strong connection to her family, namely her husband and their baby on the way. As the plot moves forward following Jerry’s game of life and death, Marge is always right behind, investigating him and getting ever closer. She’s unwavering in her search for truth and justice, which is probably her strongest character trait. As Jerry is forced into his situation by his own dangerous scheme, Marge wants to unravel it and get to the bottom of this mystery.

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