My Journey through this Course

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Credit to Mark Evans

I went into this course expecting to learn about writing stories for an online audience (as the title implies.) However, I learned a lot more than just simply writing them. The material taught in this course was fun to learn about and sparked my interest in learning more about creating both fiction and non-fiction digital stories. Without this course I probably wouldn’t realize just how much factors into the advancement of storytelling either.

While you realize that technology is advancing every day, sometimes you just go along with it and don’t stop to think about how older mediums adapt to the changes. It was fun learning how storytelling has grown and evolved as things such as video games, computers, and cell phones were introduced to the world. Traditional storytelling stills exists but hearing about how it is changing made me think about how I’ll influence its role in the future as well.

I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the course. While I struggled trying to incorporate if/then moments into my own stories, I learned just how much thought is put into interactive stories and how they weren’t as simple as I thought. Exploring and expanding on ideas to write about for this blog has broadened my knowledge of how much factors into a single idea and how that single idea can grow and change a whole medium. From ‘The Hero’s Journey‘ to here, I’ve learned so much and I look forward to learning more.

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Storytelling in Music Videos

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Love Story by Taylor Swift is an example of storytelling in music videos

Songs have always tried to tell some sort of story in their lyrics even if the message or story isn’t the greatest ever. Music videos take this to the next level by allowing the song to be translated into visuals that can help flesh out the story even more. There are many different genres of songs and many different kinds of music videos to choose from.

In recent years, the story aspect of a music video has dropped considerably unfortunately. However, you still get a great gem every once in awhile that can just astound you. The stories told in music videos are always somewhat easy to follow – though some are purposely made to make you think – and usually just try to illustrate the lyrics of the song. There are many more factors to take into consideration though such as the mood and rhythm of the song. Some really great music videos don’t even follow along with the lyrics and create their own plot (especially if the lyrics hardly have a story to them.)

There are even music videos that are interactive. Allowing you to influence the way the video plays out will, of course, attract even more viewers if done in the right way. The music video industry may have declined creatively in the last few years but there are still people out there dedicated to telling strong stories in their music videos.

Storytelling and Game-play in Video Games

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A screenshot from The Last of Us (which belongs to Naughty Dog, Inc.)

Video games are known for putting the user into the action and taking control of a character to immerse themselves into a brand new world. The video game industry has evolved and grew in popularity over the years and is now at a point where it can influence the lives of people in different ways. The game-play is always a core aspect to take into account when trying to create a game but without an amazing story it can be hard to draw in an audience.

Storytelling in video games is crucial in some cases. You need to make sure that both the plot of the game as well as the game-play is enjoyable and engaging. However, you have to match the story up to the game-play as well. The two directly influence one another in many different ways. For example: if you wanted to create a game focused around an aspiring attorney you wouldn’t want to make it a first-person shooter game. The game-play should always suit the needs of the plot and shouldn’t break illusion of the world that has been created through the story of the game.

With so many different factors influencing the plot of a game, it’s hard to please everyone. The stories told in video games can be heart wrenching, thought provoking, thrilling, and suspenseful, etc. They should never be overlooked as a platform on which an award-winning story can be told.

The Books of the Future

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credit to Matthew Reeves

Novels have been the go-to way of telling and reading stories for centuries. So, what do you do when technology advances and readership of books declines? You adapted. In order to make use of advancing technology and to gain back readers, writers had to adapt in order to survive. This is where things like cell phone novels and eBooks come into play.

Cell phone novels have been around since the early 2000s and originated in Japan. Each chapter can consist of around 70 to 100 words usually and there are a wide variety of genres. Some cell phone novels have been so popular that they’ve been made into television shows and films. They’re simple, easily accessible, and the language used make readers feel like they’re apart of the story.

EBooks are another answer to the declining readership problem and a way to keep up with technology. Having existed since the late 1900s, eBooks never gained a substantial amount of popularity until the release of the Kindle by Amazon in 2007. Portable, backlit to read in the dark, easily accessible, and the ability to basically carry an unlimited amount of books with you at anytime are some of the major positive points of eBooks.

Physical publication is slowly – very slowly – dying out and being replaced by the digital era. Even if cell phone novels and eBooks are the future, people still enjoy the traditional means of reading.

People’s Interest in the Future of Interactive Storytelling

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Grand Theft Auto V is owned by Rockstar Games

A lot of people take an interest in the future of technology as a whole. Be it computers, smartphones, the next big social media craze, etc. However, a large portion of people interested in interactive storytelling are interested in the future of one of its main mediums; video games. The future of videos games and the future of interactive storytelling are closely intertwined together.

When you think of interactive storytelling you think of a world that immerses the user into it and allows for a wide variety of choices and freedom within that world. Fans of video games such as Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto, and Mass Effect want to be as immersed as possible within the world of the video game. It’s only natural that people who want a sense of freedom and escape from reality closely follow the development and changes that their platform will take. It’s these fans that will continue to take interest and help shape what interactive storytelling will become in the future.

As to how my blog post attracted them, it was probably because of how I tagged the post. Using a broad tag like video games attracted the main audience that my post was intended for. I wrote from my own point of view as a fan of these video games and connected with my audience on a personal note in order to attract new followers to my blog.

What is Digital Storytelling?

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Credit to Langwitches Blog.

Digital storytelling is relatively new but it is a bold and exciting new foray into the ever-expanding world of storytelling. While traditional methods of storytelling such as word of mouth, staged plays, novels, and films still exist today the world is pushing more into the digital world. In this digital era, storytelling needed to find a way to evolve and it did. Thanks to the variety of tools accessible to people, new forms of storytelling in the digital plane have become available to create content for. These new stories are also widely available to be accessed from any where in the world, which brings us that much closer as a global community.

Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are all forms of communities that digital stories can be published and shared on. These stories can range from traditional text stories to films and even interactive web-based role-plays that others can contribute to and participate in. Thanks to the necessary hardware and software becoming more accessible, millions of people now have the means to create digital storytelling content and then share their creations to the world. Digital stories can combine sound or music, video, text, and even animation together to create standalone or interactive projects to be experienced by others globally.

Digital stories are definitely the way of the future. This form of storytelling will continue to be nurtured and grow exponentially in various ways. The more people use the Internet or computers to create their stories, the more digital storytelling will grow. 

Plan of Attack

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Written by ‘Dave McElfatrick’ of Explosm.

Storytelling, at first, seems like it’s really simple and it is if you’re just aiming to get a simple tale across to an audience. However, to be truthfully honest, it is so frustrating and complicated and sometimes you just want to rip all the hair out of your head. That’s why I love actually making a plan of ‘attack’ on a story beforehand; it helps, immensely.

Digital storytelling is no different – in fact, it may be even more complicated – and digital storytelling planning is helpful in every way imaginable. A list of critical moments in the story, separating the smaller parts from the actual main story, keeps the plot simple looking and straightforward with no massive headaches involved. However, that’s just for creating the story path. What really matters in DST planning is choosing a platform best suited for your story, learning from similar projects that already exist, putting research into what structures people like the most, and finding out exactly what makes people come back for more.

If it weren’t for these four things, most digital stories wouldn’t make it past the basic stages of planning. After getting out the basic plot points, a writer should focus on those four things before they get too engrossed in fleshing out the actual story. Researching structures that are popular or more suited to what you envision will help you write the story especially if you know the platform you want to deliver it on.

The Future of Interactive Stories

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A screenshot from Skyrim (Skyrim belongs to Bethesda.)

Stories have existed in various formats throughout history. They began as tales passed from one person to another before becoming tangible as novels, plays, etc. on paper. In this era, stories have transitioned from just words into film, television, video games, etc. that can be shared easily throughout the entire world.

Obviously, the next stage for storytelling in media was to make it more interactive. A story that could turn the audience into the user and allow them to make choices and suffer consequences based on those choices. This doesn’t mean they’re the future for the film and television industry. In fact, I would prefer for interactive stories to be made only for video games because that is the medium that best suits them.

Perfect examples of interactive storytelling in video games are games such as Skyrim, Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto, or even The Sims. Games where you can create your own characters, influence or make their choices, and flesh out their stories the way you want to is the ideal goal for an interactive story. In these sorts of games you don’t feel disconnected from yourself and the character. However, in interactive stories in film, you’re given a character (most of the time) that you follow and only make choices for; you never feel that you yourself are affected by any choice made in the way that a character that is an extension of yourself would make you feel.

Scriptwriting 101

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Example taken from Pen Densham’s ‘Riding the Alligator’ website

I wasn’t entirely knowledgeable in the ‘art’ of proper scriptwriting. I knew nothing about the format required, the technical lingo involved, or the programs available for use to make everything easier. When I wrote scripts for drama class they were much more simpler because of my ignorance of the formatting of scripts. My scripts usually consisted of a character’s name followed by what they were supposed to say or what action they had to perform (i.e. ‘Francis: I wonder what’s for lunch.’) They weren’t eloquently written, in fact, my scripts left out a majority of the actions required by the actors during the scene and focused mostly on their lines.

Scriptwriting is obviously much more than that. Of course, now I need to learn to write in the proper format and it’ll take some getting used to but I’m glad I’ll finally use the same format as all the other great screenplay writers. Adding all the necessary details about the setting, transitions, sound effects, etc. really allow you to visualize exactly what is happening in the scene. If there were no proper format for scripts then it’d be confusing and hard to encompass the writer’s vision for the scene and transition that to real life. It wouldn’t just be directors or actors stressed out by the lack of proper formatting; location scouts, cameramen, editors… The entire cast and crew would be saddled with extra burdens. Proper format exists so that everything goes smoothly and I wish I had learned it sooner.

The Hero’s Journey

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The Hero’s Journey by Dunlavey

Joseph Campbell described the hero’s journey, originally known as the monomyth, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Thehero’s journey is supposed to be a sort of representation of the stages that a majority of the world’s myths or stories follow. This is what Campbell argued for but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is true nor does it mean it is a great structure to follow. In fact, I believe that the hero’s journey doesn’t allow for a wide variety of interpretation of any myth or story that seemingly follows its structure.

I think that the hero’s journey simplifies storytelling to the point where there’s no creativity behind it anymore. Any cultural significance in a story is lost because the monomyth doesn’t take into account the differences in cultures. Not only that, but the hero’s journey has a male bias where women rarely are portrayed in the myths or are only a part of the story to further the male hero. There are better structures to be used that actually allow for variations, imagination, interpretations, and don’t exclude things just for the sake of simplification. If you stick too much to the rigid structure of the monomyth then you won’t be able to provide an insightful look into the story. It will just be the same thing over and over again with any lessons or meanings lost to the audience. The hero’s journey could theoretically still be used but it is very flawed and should be improved.