Story Smash

So in today’s tute, we did a group activity called ‘Story Smash’ where we were meant to be able to create a universe based on the story ideas each group member had.

It was quite difficult in terms of trying to link each story together especially because they were all based in different time periods and settings. One was set in the 17th century which revolved around a serial killer – a crime and mystery story. Another was set in the modern world where an ex-girlfriend becomes crazy and begins to plan a murder of the wife her ex-boyfriend had married. And finally my story revolved around a war against an alien species who had invaded and conquered earth in an attempt to splice parts of their DNA together with human DNA in order to combat their rapid aging bodies and become a stronger species.

We thought of 2 plot ideas where a solider fighting in the resistance discovers that the DNA the aliens had spliced came from certain individuals in history – one from the serial killer and one from a psychopathic woman. The story unfolds as the solider, in between missions, delves deeper into their history and discovers why the aliens became interested in their DNA.

Another plot we had involves the aliens actually observing the planet’s inhabitants for centuries before finally invading. During the observation process they abducted people of interest as they observed their actions and character traits – a serial killer with a knack for aggression and deception and a woman who’s brain structure was fundamentally different from other humans which led to unpredictability and psychopathic tenancies. These people were found frozen in stasis on a ship by resistance soldiers who then freed them in hope that they would cooperate with them and utilize their skills to combat the alien forces.

Types of media we can incorporate:

  • Journals/diaries from the past
  • New technology – audio/video logs
  • Social networks

In terms of how this has expanded my outlook and idea of how I can enhance and create my Transmedia story, I figured I could use hard copy journals and diaries from the soldiers fighting in the resistance army while also using new technological medias such as social networks and video/audio uploading and sharing networks.

Narrative Interactivity

‘How would you plan one of these stories?’

Firstly when planning an interactive narrative, taken from my experience playing Visual Novels, I’d think about what story I can create that can branch out. Essentially the base of the story i’d keep broad, focusing only on the setting. Then once I nail that down I would begin to become more specific about the characters, whether or not I’d like the audience to be the character or simply dictate and control his/her actions. Normally in Visual novels the longer you play the more you become the character so in the end I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’d then begin to think about how I can branch out the narrative, whether to create choices that alter the narrative.

‘Could you introduce an interactive element to one of your brainstorm ideas?’

I have already kind of implemented this concept of interactivity, I worked in the new documentary studio last year and worked heavily on this idea of interactivity, mainly using it to create a new form of documentary story telling. In one of my current Story Lab ideas however involves using the ‘X-Com’ game franchise to create an expanding narrative based on events that take place in the game. I’d implement this with interaction with the game itself and maybe even have audiences participate in the narrative by ‘assisting’ soldiers by creating mini-games that they have to complete in order to greatly benefit the character(s) being portrayed.

Giovagnoli’s Plan Transmedia

What I mainly took from Giovagnoli’s article on ‘Plan Transmedia’ was the fact that he categorized transmedia storytelling depending on their complexity and usage of different types of media.

There were 3 specific systems that he mentioned when he categorized the usage of transmedia, supportive, competitive and omnivorous.

From what I took from it:

  • The supportive system is a consistent and stable method of using transmedia storytelling to enhance the current existing narrative. However, it’s weakness lies in that it can be difficult to maintain interest of the audiences if you’re going to be repeating the same information over and over; SSDD, ‘Same shit different day’. Although if done right it can be quite an effective means of bringing audiences more engaged with the narrative.
  • The competitive system functions a bit differently in that they’re not limited by a single platform in which they use to expand/enhance the narrative. They tend to branch out into different platforms all competing with one another, e.g. social media, websites, etc. While this is a bit more of a risky and costly move it does draw in a wider range of audiences from all across different mediums. It also won’t be as easy to expand the narrative as other methods.
  • Lastly the omnivorous system is noted as probably the most effective system of transmedia storytelling as while it expands it essentially draws everything from a central narrative/concept. E.g. The Marvel universe – while there are all these movies and comics, adaptations etc, ultimately it leads back to the narrative of which Marvel portrays.

Sherlock: The Network

Essentially this app is designed to be played by fans of the BBC hit mini-series, ‘Sherlock’. In terms of setting up the character of Sherlock, while it doesn’t shy too far away from the original set up the show has created, it doesn’t fully portray his strange and sociopath nature. It’s a bit difficult to establish his character through mostly just mini-games. It’s a bit difficult to say that I would watch the show after playing on this app because I’ve already seen all the episodes before going on the app so it’s I’m a bit indifferent on the matter.

Elements of the show have been made into mini-games, specifically Sherlock’s concept of a ‘mind palace’ has been implemented for us to use as well as searching for clues and traveling across London. The games themselves are quite engaging although tough at times but that adds to the whole engagement process put forth especially when trying to create a game based off a show like Sherlock.

Mainly what the developers attempt to do is seduce players with free cases and get them hooked on the whole gameplay aspect and lore of the show while providing them the option to purchase more cases to further explore the world of Sherlock. It’s also engaging in that it’s a much higher quality free game than most as it employs live action cut scenes and engagements with the characters themselves, even if it may be brief.

Story Lab – Project 1: Story Time [Reflection]

For my short story I attempted to create a short story based on game series ‘X-Com’. In short this game revolves around creating your own soldiers and commanding them against the threat of an alien invasion.

I mainly drew my story on the concept of ‘Agency’, even though I don’t really know if it worked or not. I took one of my soldiers in the game, Jones, and created a sort of audio log type story to go alongside her achievements as a soldier in-game. It’s a bit difficult to explain but essentially what I was trying to achieve was a sense of heavy user participation alongside the nature of short story as expressed by Matthews. This sense of agency I was hoping to achieve came from the idea that I could write in between missions that would be played in the game itself – sort of a soldier’s diary. Jones being a sniper in the actual game, gave me the idea to create an audio log highlighting the events she had endured in between X-Com: Enemy Unknown and X-Com 2 which has around a 20 year time gap in between. Although I’m not entirely sure how well I had managed to achieve that, but it was worth a try.

Jones (X-Com: Enemy Unknown)Jones in X-Com:Enemy Unknown

Jones (X-Com 2)Jones in X-Com 2


Story Lab: Agency

Agency according to Janet H. Murray ‘is the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our action.’

Examples of agency as Murray states is when we double click a folder on our desktop and expect it to open. So essentially from what I understand is that agency is a feeling of subconscious satisfaction where we lie expectations in our actions to have them (most of the time) fulfilled.

I’m guessing that agency also applies to when we expect a great result with a doubtful mind as well and to have that result come to fruition – giving us a large sense of satisfaction.

Now as for applying this concept to narrative, it’s a bit difficult to do because we never really think about it I feel. When we read a novel or go through a game, most of the time we’re constantly under the effects of agency but rarely notice it. Especially in games, for example when you fire a gun at an enemy you automatically expect them to fall, die or get hurt in some sort of way, but we pay little to no attention to it because we’re accustomed to the nature of how these things should be – drawn from experienced in real life, other games and many other factors.

In narrative however as Murray states, agency isn’t really a notion we can really experience due to the limited nature of how narrative is structured and how we as the audience/reader participate in the narrative. We’ve got no power to really change things around the way we want because nearly everything is preset and given to us.

However although agency isn’t something that we can grant ourselves freely in narrative most of the time, I believe that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it could just take a lot of time and creativity to try and grant the audience the same agency they feel as when they’re on a computer.

Story Lab: What is short story?

Drawing from the reading by Brander Matthews titled ‘The Philosophy of Short Story’, Matthews describes short stories as more than just a story in which the length is short. He emphasizes the importance of conciseness and expression when creating a short story.

There are many aspects that differentiate short stories from novels. A couple of which are pointed out in Matthew’s reading. The main reason why novels and short stories differ from each other quoted is ‘chiefly in its essential unity of impression.’ I assume what he means is the how different the first lines and paragraphs are set up, and even the whole novel/short story. Go be more specific, short stories need to be concise, it has to leave a large impression on the reader/viewer in a short amount of time. This can be be done through a number of factors – different structures, precise description and perhaps even an utter disregard for conventional narrative.

In most cases short stories normally deal with one setting, one time and a handful of characters according to Matthews. Which is understandable and reasonable considering the limitations short stories place upon an author. Whilst I believe that it’s much easier to create a short story like this, I also believe that there are no real limits to one’s imagination and creativity even when it comes to short stories.

While I believe Roald Dahl’s ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ short delivered in many ways while sticking to Matthew’s principals more or less, I believe short stories are something that shouldn’t be limited to for example, one setting, one time or one character. Although it may be harder to work with more aspects of story within such a limited space, it doesn’t meant it can’t be done – it just takes time.

Matthews goes on to state that novels tend to be created in episodes while short stories, drawing from Poe, work with this notion of ‘totality’. Which I can agree with to an extent. When I hear ‘totality’ I think of something complete, so in a sense I can’t totally agree with that statement put before me because I believe the ending of a short story can be ambiguous if the author so chooses. However if the notion of totality in this context means to include every aspect of a story and fit it into only a handful of pages then I understand.

Couple of things that stood out to me in the Matthews reading:

  • “Short stories must have originality and ingenuity’
  • “It neither can be conceived as part of a Novel nor can it be elaborated and expanded so as to form a Novel’