There are two big challenges for telling a story in the way that I decided to. First, you have to figure out what sort of story you want to tell. Second, you have to figure out how in the world you’re going to tell it with such a weird format. I am unfortunately still somewhat undecided on the first – I’m still kicking around a couple of different ideas, although I’ll probably just start writing in the next few days – but I’ve made some progress on the second.
How to write a story like this is really rather difficult. If I were just writing the story like a regular short story, I’d just start typing into a word document (Or writing on a notepad, or whatever), with one passage following another. It’s not so simple for what I want to do, though: do I want to have one main “text,” with everything else branching off from it? (Like a blog telling a story, with links to images, videos, etc) Do I want the “story” to be told concurrently across multiple forms of media – in effect, playing out a live drama for the internet? How explicit should I make the connections between the forms of media in order to help the reader grasp the story – do I come up with my own coherent order, with a link from one object to another, or do I provide just enough connections that people can track down the other parts of the story and read it in the order and manner of their choosing? What role should other people or non-original content play in my story – is linking to other people’s stuff fair game, if I add a disclaimer somewhere?
Some sorts of internet media are time coded in ways that I can’t edit – like Twitter or Facebook – but others, like WordPress blogs, can be edited to display any desired time. (Students who have trouble getting blogs posts in on time, take note!) Should I tell a story in “real time,” or should I try my best to get it to work according to my own timeline? Limiting it to real time would make the task of composition that must more demanding and stressful, but limiting the story to forms of media where I can edit the displayed creation date could be potentially crippling, too.
To be honest, even as I’ve come to some semi-firm ideas about what I want to do, and realistically can, these are all issues I’ve had to consider and am still struggling with to some degree. There are so many ways to do this sort of thing – anything from a single blog with links to relevant media and small bits on other sites to a pseudo-ARG internet drama spread across a dozen sites – that I’m sure I could take the same basic storyline and potentially tell it dozens of different ways. What I’m currently leaning towards is some combination of these disparate ideas.
Difficult as it is to say without a definite story, I’m currently thinking that I will have several different blogs that will function as the “main text” of this story. For the sake of my sanity, I will decide on a coherent ordering of elements to form the plot, and for the sake of yours, I will provide some form of clear connections between them. Each blog will serve as a sort of story “chapter” or book, with a transition to the next at the beginning, middle, or end – you can always just skip ahead. The blogs themselves will use, link to, and generally utilize various forms of media (Not only text, but pictures, sound, video, etc) I’m currently thinking that to keep it simple, only one blog will be the “real time” blog that will use the forms of social media that I can’t timestamp, while the others will be placed in a relative past.
Of course, this means I’m going to have to write the story in what amounts to two directions at once: a “real time” part going forward, and another part in the past, and hope that I can work a decent story into it as they meet somewhere in the middle. While this sounds challenging, I think it will be a bit more manageable than an ongoing drama that I would have to sketch entirely as it went (Or in advance, I suppose) like Matt is planning to do.
Good grief, and I thought I was simplifying matters by deciding a bit more on a format. What have I gotten myself into?
But. Rather than bemoaning my self-inflicted pain, it’s more productive to look towards the future. So here’s my plan: Over the weekend, including my awesome backpacking trip, I will figure out a rough sketch of my story and actually put pen to paper so I know roughly where I’m going. Early next week, I’ll begin: I’ll register for the social media sites I want to use, and begin working on the time sensitive stuff first. (I don’t want to end up having some sort of absurd drama where a character does everything on April 27th, right before final grades are in) That will be the priority, as I begin working out the non-time sensitive stuff. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Sound crazy? Yeah, yeah it does. And if I crash and burn and this turns into a complete and total mess? Well, I’ll blog about that too.