Week 5 was about stories in big industries like MARVEL, DC and other big projects that aren’t related to comics. We watched shows involving the character, Agent Carter. The links between the characters like Howard Stark, father of Iron Man or even Jarvis, Iron Man’s computer have shown a realistic link between other MARVEL films. This link is categorised under the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) where every character are linked in each story. A more recent event, Captain America’s Civil War.
MCU was a terribly difficult read. I honestly got confused and lost half the time trying to pinpoint the events and chronological timeline of when each superhero appeared. From Iron Man to Hulk to Captain America and Thor ? It was a dreadful thing for someone who never caught up on MARVEL. I usually watch them as individual movies unless they’re sequels. It was amazing how MARVEL fans have the ability to reason the chronological timeline such as below. It is definitely arguable to some events due to repeats of events that shows contrast to the previous scene. Things you can look out for are objects used, characters and their overlapping motivations, events or history that could lead to the next film as well as the atmosphere and location.
Despite their success in blockbuster movies, MARVEL has various series signed under NETFLIX like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. In my opinion, though many oppose to, I prefer these Netflix series. Because they have the ability to churn out content with no constraints unlike blockbuster movies, I enjoyed the dark edgy themes that Daredevil and Jessica Jones have. During class, someone mentioned that the style of content written is unlike writing for films. I agree with that statement because Netflix is catered for a niche audience – some will enjoy it and others might not.
Niche audience will be discussed in week 6 !
During class we were to use the first hour of our studio workshop to play some of the games that Dan have compiled for us. I decided to start from the bottom of the list (boy was I wrong to think it was a short story). I played The Matter of the Great Red Dragon. These text-based games were interesting form as they are the same as those choose-your-adventure games but in words. It relied heavily on hypertexts as it allows you to click your choice of action in order to advance the story. A few questions were prompted in class to get discussions going on.
1. How (using minimal resources – text-only, very little extra material) have these story worlds been created ?
I believe that short stories or text-based games are usually up for audience imagination. There was definitely a little bit of background of certain objects from the story world but they were not lengthy explanation. The objects from the story of the Great Red Dragon were simple and easy to understand hence, the story was easily digestible.
2. When were you “hooked”?
Honestly, fantasy genre always gets me hooked especially when it’s in an alternate universe.
3. How is the character developed?
The game I played was choosing your path as the hero of the game so the character develops when as you go along the adventure. It definitely makes you feel like you’re in control of your own character. Others, however, were not developed as well as a proper story would. There would be no background or profile of the characters but just enough information for you to understand why they were important in the story.
4. How was the narrative / technology / audience leveraged (used) to relay the story? How would you plan one of these ?
During the discussion, I agreed with one of my peer’s opinion. The narrative was not very strong in majority of the games because of their main goal to be interactive. She mentioned that it was spread too thin just to maintain the audience attention. The way they’re done is they are multiple chains of texts that are interwoven together to create this web of texts (hypertexts). However, if there are too much going on, it would only lead to frustration as the story gets too confusing and it could overload one’s sensory and memory. The navigation is the key mechanics to these text-based games.
It’s quite intimidating to know that someone else is going to critique my short story, however, it was a good way to learn and improve. There’s never too many opinions as in this world, there’s different perspective to broaden our knowledge. I was honestly quite intrigued with the feedback I received from my peer. He pointed out one of my weakness which was that my sentence structures sometimes a little clumsy that it disrupts the flow. Sometimes I don’t realise that my phrases confuses readers from time to time. It comes out fragmented or it has excessive words. Being pointed out here makes me wish that I could figure out how to improve my sentence structure.
Reading other’s short stories have always left me wondering how they found the inspiration to write this alternate universe or what do they feel as they wrote their characters. To me, I usually find a sense of nostalgia and plenty of influence from other stories I have read to write my story. When I read my peer’s fantasy genre, I was in awe! Even without any extra description of the world I am already imagining it with my own thoughts.
The story I wrote about was going towards the Japanese anime style. I have a feeling that majority of the class will be tackling deep visually oriented short stories like dark thriller, mystery and comedy. Hence, I tried something different.
Notice that majority of the anime stories revolve around high school life, especially for Slice of Life genres. The Japanese spins lots of stories through high school or middle school students, the protagonists, who either have traumas, crisis or any incident that cause them to act weak in the beginning. Just like McKee’s readings had mentioned that protagonists usually are the heroes that the audience aspire to be and it has to be relatable. What’s interesting about the anime protagonists is that people can relate to due to their weak status at the beginning of the story.
In all honesty, I almost regretted challenging myself writing this style of short story because I felt that the story was very… childish. Well, it is a set in a high school after all. I had no other idea how to change the setting of the story to gain the same effect for the ending so I just pressed on with this plot. This was inspired by the thriller movie that came out not long ago in the cinemas called, The Boy (2016), directed by William Brent Bell, where a hired nanny was to take care of a porcelain doll. The porcelain doll was a replacement for their son who was killed in a fire about 20 years ago. The conversations and instructions the parents gave to the nanny were all connected to the ending and I was absolutely mind-blown. I wanted to give the same effect as what the ending of that movie did to me. For example:
(SPOILER ALERT – highlight over to see)
When the mother said that waking up Brahms in a soft tone would not be able to wake him up. This is because Brahms needs to hear it loud enough through the walls where he resided for the past 20 years due to his face burnt by the fire. At the beginning, no one knew that Brahms was still alive and they thought that the parents were crazy to have porcelain doll as a replacement for their late son.
Just to touch on the film, The Boy, majority hated the ending because they felt cheated. Just thinking about what was mentioned in class about the database logic I realized that the structure of the narrative was definitely out of the usual structure and that I commend for their originality but majority doesn’t see it that way because of the expectations (algorithms) of a plot. This is my reason of writing this short story – to realize the plot twists that audience may or may not accept as well as the subtle hints that could mean different ways till the ending.
The Story Lab studio kicked off with a little bit of introduction and reviewing the course outline (the usual). During our three-hour workshop, we were shown three platforms of storytelling media – paper, radio and film.
The keyword linearity came up during class. I have gotten ahead in myself learning the multi-narrative plotlines, the twists and so forth. This made me backtrack a little and asked myself, what and why linearity was important in stories back in the days. One of the main reasons were due to time constraints, there was no room for complexity of stories. There simply was neither enough room nor the time for something indirect. Readers at the time, I presume listen to radios or the television during their down times, especially after a hard day at work.
With linearity, the story is very predictable and it is easier to digest compared to the complexity of Hollywood plots these days like Inception. The predictability comes from the style of documenting or commenting on the event just like how the journalist was describing the scene of the battle and stating his next action. Frankenstein was the same, he mentions repetitively that he will be able to bring life and play God. There is a clear goal of the protagonist in linear plots that the audience can grasp at the beginning of the story.