July 16, 2014

Fiction 3

Interesting weblog post from BC on Arguing, Plotting, and Making Hypertext.

Some additional reading: for Rashomon as a hypertext structure, see Moulthrop’s early work on hyperbaton and robotic hypertext and see my paper on Patterns of Hypertext. I like BC’s notion of the inaccessible story; the best example of this remains, I think, Moulthrop’s Victory Garden. Sebald seems directly relevant as well. For plot, story, and the reader’s control, see Landow’s Hypertext and my On Hypertext Narrative; I think we now understand that readers play a huge role in bringing meaning to any text but that the this role is not unbounded.

Readercon had an interesting panel on plot:

Plot Without Conflict. Liz Duffy Adams, F. Brett Cox (leader), Samuel Delany, Eileen Gunn, Shira Lipkin, Anil Menon. In Western writing, conflct is considered essential to plot. The classic three- and five-act structures taught in writing courses and workshops revolve around a central conflict. But does plot require conflict? The Japanese kishōtenketsu structure is built on four acts: introduction, development, twist, and reconciliation—best known to Western readers as the structure of four-panel manga. Deep and rich stories are told within this structure, which, by comparison, shows the three-act structure to be fundamentally confrontational. What can writers steeped in Western notions of plot conflict learn from a careful analysis of alternate structures?

This, too, seems directly pertinent. (I missed the session – it was scheduled opposite a panel on the Great War and the roots of fantastika and one can’t be everywhere, but I’d love to hear Delaney and Gunn (!) on story structure.

In the panel on “Emotion, Archives, Interactive Fiction, and Linked Data,” I asked Leah Bobet to don her editor hat (she’s also an accomplished writer and a passionate bookseller) and to reflect on what differentiates a rich hypertextual archive from a shaggy dog manuscript, a manuscript in which the writer has not been able to choose what to leave out. Her answer was to tighten remorselessly, which is always the right answer. But if the natural tendency of hypertext is toward the encyclopedic – Janet Murray’s old conjecture which underpins the premise of the panel – does that not call for a less ascetic approach?