Story 2.0 (Something, something intermediality)

4 years ago | Tintenteufel (Member)

I hope this topic didn't already come up. A quick search at least produced nothing of the sort.

I would like to discuss the possibility of turning WebSerials interactive in a more unorthodox way. I think the nature of the internet, browsing habits and so forth have quite interesting opportunities to play around more with what a story is, what fiction is and so on - but I can't figure out if that's a stupid idea or not.

What I mean is this:
I write fiction that is vaguely contemporary (meaning: set some time in the last 10 years or so) and many of my story seeds or background events did happen as I portray them or at least could have reasonably happened that way - just with added fantastical stuff. I have one storyline for example about the head of F.W.Murnau going missing in 2015, which really happened. It just probably wasn't stolen by necromancers in reality. The story works on its own but I would like to put in an extra punch by blurring the line between reality and fiction even more. By somehow bringing the fiction I wrote into the real context of the actual graverobbery for example and making it harder for readers to distinguish between the two. To make my own story more believable (and thus scary) because "All the other stuff really happened, so what's to say the other stuff didn't?"
But I hesitate to simply put in links to newspaper clippings and such.

I recall Worm doing something along that line with having scenes sprinkled in here and there that were "taken" from a fictional online-board about the capes. A more classical example would probably be "Call of Cthulhu" incorporating the charlevoix-kamouraska earthquake into the storyline.

Do you think that's a good idea or too gimicky?
If you'd do it, how?

Blut und Rost - German Webserial about the horror that is human interaction

Read responses...


  1. Docmars (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    yep good

  2. jagiunta (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    It sounds like you're talking about using technology to alter the medium you deliver your story. That could work, so long as it serves the story and not the notion of doing something new and different simply for that sake.

    For example, if you have two characters that text regularly, you could write a scene that is nothing but texting. In order for this to serve the story, it has to be done in a way that reveals character and advances the plot in a way that couldn't be done (as well) with regular prose. If I was to do this, then word choice and spelling would be a priority. What the character's say and how they say it (dialogue) takes center stage. You won't have description or thoughts or action... this is pretty huge but can be done in a meaningful way.

    Just always keep in mind that what you're trying to accomplish has to put story first.
  3. Dary (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    My uni course materials are in an attic somewhere (we did a module on New Media storytelling), otherwise I'd dig them up, but yeah, there's a fair few examples out there and it forms the backbone of ARGs

  4. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    It doesn't sound gimmicky at all if I understand this correctly.

    However, I don't write contemporary fiction of any genre so I wouldn't even begin to know where to start when doing something like what you are talking about. Most of what I would be worried about if it's feasible/necessary for the story I would want to tell.

    A cross-genre slice=of-life, some adventure fluff fantasy stories about elves-->
  5. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    It's an interesting idea but my first thought is that it will come off more as tacky and exploitative than as interesting and innovative. For years, roleplaying games, such as the World of Darkness, have always advised /against/ mixing real-world events with fictional motivations/reasons etc because it's basically using real tragedies to enhance your story. Which is kind of something you explicitly state in your post.

    A volcano? Sure. But actual people or disasters that severely affected people? Eeehhh...

    Worm didn't really do what you seem to think it did as Worm is a flat AU from the moment Scion appeared. Worm did chapters about in-world events from the perspective of a bunch of message board postings. These chapters were also some of Worm's worst, particularly if you came to the serial late, and the ones Ward opened with actively worked to repel me from the story.

    There's nothing wrong with writing stories that do things like that, though -- that is, doing chapters of SMS texting or chatlogs or whatever (I love how games do them in journals or codexes or whatever, just love 'em). But you need to do them well. A general guide is to keep them short, know why you're doing them, and have it have distinct meaning. I do one of them in every 'part' of NAH, and they're mostly to stress some key components of the main story that are bias, narrative, and historiography. I like doing them but I recognise that even one per every ten or so regular chapters is pretty self-indulgent.

    If you're interested in something like that, there's actually a series of YA novels called The Illuminae Files that tell the whole story through chatlogs, fictional reports, meeting transcripts and so on. It's pretty interesting but, honestly, it's a much harder read than a normal book. And while it's an interesting gimmick, I'm not sure if it's any better for Illuminae than just telling it normally would have been. (But, really, I think Illuminae's whole thing so far is just that it's a pretty standard story told in a very different way.)

    I feel like you need to more accurately define what you mean. Do you mean writing with chapters that aren't novel-esque prose, do you mean writing that mixes real-world events with fictional things, or both?

  6. SovereignofAshes (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I have to agree with what has been said above. If it's pulled off, it could be a really cool boon to the story. If it's not, it can come across as a huge drag. Some people like politics injected into everything, others really hate it. Your mileage may vary.

    A good middle-ground if you can get away from it is lore injections into the story (provided they aren't too much exposition). People tend to like seeing deeper into a realized setting. You can easily allude to real-life events but through a heavily filtered lens within the story universe. You don't have to mention the assassination of JFK directly, as an example, but make something similar in the setting that readers can use that as a touchstone in real life. Using the idea of tabletop RPGs, the assassination of Dunkelzahn from Shadowrun was very much a hearkening back to the JFK thing. Even though Dunkie was a dragon.

    I also got summoned to this thread by the mention of another tabletop RPG as inspiration. You just had to mention the World of Darkness didn't you... (I'm a old gamer, and a former freelancer of those games.)

    The World of Darkness thing doesn't quite work. On paper, yes, a lot of the developers said they were against mixing real-world events with the fictional stuff in the games. In reality, they did it in spades. I remember how much yelling Justin Achilli did when New York by Night came out for V:tM right after 9/11 happened (the book came out just a month before the event, but submissions for new projects came out right after). Every freelancer was trying to get a plot-line in to mention the Assamites in New York, or how it influenced their involvement with the Camarilla. I still remember all the FULL CAPS emails to this day.

    At the same time however, they dumped so much real-world stuff into the game it made the developers look like total hypocrites. The nuclear testing that India was doing, well that got included in the 1998-1999 Time of Thin Blood meta-plot. A virus outbreak that happened in Quebec around 2001, got included as a plot-line in Hunter: the Reckoning as a zombie outbreak. All of the little details about Pentex and it's subsidiaries from Werewolf were all based on real-world corporations, real-world groups, and real-world personalities. That time George Soros broke the bank of England, well it's mentioned in the Syndicates book for Mage. The NSA data-mining stuff in the early internet and FBI's Project Carnivore, that's all in Guide to the Technocracy. For the more outlandish stuff, they even tapped some of the rumors flying around about Project Solarwarden (old DARPA conspiracy) and used that for the Void Engineers. Also there's the constant mentioning of Rasputin in like every splatbook for the game (seriously, I have the full printed library in my office, you'd be surprised. It used to be an old drinking game).

    Don't even get me started on the historical settings for OWoD either... Vampire: the Dark Ages, Vampire: Victorian Age, Werewolf: the Wild West, Mage: Sorcerer's Crusade, Wraith: the Great War (hell, even the Charnel Houses of Europe: Shoah sourcebook on the holocaust from Wraith, that was Rich Dansky's favorite project) and the revised Dark Ages line are -heavy- with historical influence and bias.

    A good example of WW getting away with these kinds of in-world allusions to reality was HunterNet in Hunter: the Reckoning and SchreckNet from Vampire.

    I don't know how much of a gamer Wildbow is, and if he's ever gotten involved in the WoD games, but you can see some influence in his work with Worm and Ward. It's not far-fetched that his in-universe inserts were inspired by HunterNet and the forum posts from the Aberrant game line (they are supers, after all).

    As far as the newer World of Darkness stuff (NWoD and the new V:tM 5th Edition stuff). They are as political as all-get-out. If you've seen the latest beta for V:tM 5E, it has anti-trump stuff in it, antifa, EU politics, you name it. It's steeped in that stuff. Because the newer developers are hardcore punks. Even the NWoD stuff from Onyx is slowly starting to get way more political after Chronicles of Darkness came out (just take a gander at Beast: the Tumblring... I mean, Beast: the Primordial).

    If you can make it work and do a fresh take on it. Do it. It'll be awesome. If you have some hesitation about it or see yourself being too political or heavy-handed with it, hold out from it and just work on your world-building a bit more. Use it for creativity and storytelling, not to beat people with a truncheon from a soapbox (we have enough of that going on right now).

    Oh, and a nod to the OP here... Thank you for mentioning Call of Cthulhu <3
    I just lost 3 SAN for posting here. ^_^

    I have stuff on here too! The Vorrgistadt Saga.
  7. Rhodeworks (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Well, I'd posit that the WoD guys saying 'don't do it' by the time NWoD first rolled around was either:

    a. proof that they'd come to realize what they were doing was a bad idea, given what happened with oWoD's ridiculousness
    b. unaware hypocrisy that helped demonstrated the point that it shouldn't be done anyway

    All that stuff being in Chronicles of Darkness just makes me kind of happy that I slowly fell away from WoD just after God-Machine came out.

  8. Tintenteufel (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Alright, thanks for chiming in! I am sorry I couldn't get an answer done earlier. There's a lot to unpack here, so let me try and do it thematically.

    First we got a little misunderstanding, I think. What jagiunta mentioned is not exactly what I had in mind, althou my Worm example was pretty misleading in that regard. My apologies.
    What you speak of - taking sms chats or forum chats or other forms of medium into the plot and narration - would still be on the level of the diegesis, meaning internal to the fictional narrated world. As far as I understand you you would slice in a piece of narration that is in a different style or medium or even mocked-up version of a medium?
    What I had in mind would be more concerned with linking the diegetic level (the story) with something extra-diegetic (the newspaper clipping). On the most obvious and immersion disrupting way that would be simply linking to the "text" that you would want to connect with the story. E.g. a news article about an earthquake or Murnaus missing head.
    The link Dary provided has a few nice examples of that.

    Second I think we have to split up the whole debate about messaging by alluding to stuff. Again the Worm example might have been a bad example, but I meant it in the sense of a stylistic device. Not that it's actually breaching the barrier between fact and fiction.
    I think we have to distinguish between how we allude and what we allude to.
    I think pretending to be "without message" when everything we say and do in writing is coded and bears (implicit) message and that is the whole point of writing is just a lame excuse to be lazy about it. Not saying I like the nWoD any better than the old, but the first and second editions pretense of just being fun...well...Remember "World of Darkness: Gypsies"?

    So in my opinion there are really two discussions there.
    1. Should fiction allude to the real world?
    2. In what way should/could it do so?

    I think that not alluding to "reality" is pretty impossible, even if just in the subtext. Even if it's just the usage of certain concepts and ideas in other-world fantasy settings. In low key fantasticalized(?) 'reality' it's impossible as far as I am concerned. But my point is not that. I fictionalize anyway and I do not precisely want to talk about that sort of stuff. If it's exploitative I mean.

    My main concern is the second point. In what way could a WebSerial appear to make itself "more credible" or more real or whatever that is somewhat unique to it's own style and technical criteria?
    Or, more simply: We can link to stuff. We can put up real news and headlines in the text. If somebody is reading a newspaper we can mock up a newspaper or post a clipping from a real one to make it seem like the story is not as much fiction as you would like to think.

    Obviously there are horrible ways to do it, there I am completely on your side, Rhodeworks. But I think "Inglorious Basterds" would be way worse if you took out Hitler. :P That is why I ask about the how.

    How cool! I mainly played V:DA until recently, any chance you worked on any of those splats? :D
    And while I'd love to nerd about that stuff all day - especially the way they just butchered cities sometimes - I would consider that a worldbuilding problem. As in "How do i build my contemporary urban fantasy world so that it either says as much as possible about my own political views or as little as possible?".
    That's not the point. The point is also not to get a political message out.
    The point is: Can we somehow weave in parts of the real world in a way that goes beyond simply link dropping inspirations or events or building it into the world itself? Like blend the fiction more seemlessly into the reality or something like that.

    I hope this makes it somewhat clearer? But again, I am not saying I have a very concrete concept. This is just an idea that's floating around my head which I'd like to discuss. Mainly because I also feel pretty annoyed by heavy-handed references but because I like it when they're well done. :)

    Blut und Rost - German Webserial about the horror that is human interaction
  9. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    Blending fiction seamlessly into reality so that the story is more tangible and substantial.

    Okay, I thought about this a little more not that I've a clearer understanding by what you mean. You can get close to it on certain levels but I don't think you can make fiction absolutely tangible.

    I think probably a small example of this, if I understand what you are saying is there is a webcomic, Tripping Over You, who has Tumblr blogs for some of it's characters. They'll answer questions from readers but will also share images sometimes from online. I mean it kind of lends itself to that because it's contemporary and takes place in a world like ours. As far as I recall it's in a place of it's own. If there is a city that has been mentioned in there, I can't recall. The setting is unnamed I think. However, I think the Tumblr blogs aren't part of the story per-se. In that I don't believe the characters mention having a blog. It's just something extra.

    Now if you wanted to really take that concept and weave it a little tighter with reality, the character blog is written to co-inside with what is written in the web-fiction and give their own thoughts with it as well as interacting with the commenters. That would be interesting. However, I think you would have to set the story up that way. Maybe something like a story that takes place of a fixed amount of time. Say, the events in the story take place over a month. You write an update to their adventure every day and at certain intervals, the character may pop up on Twitter during down time, travel time, or before they sleep across that entire month. The character will talk to those on Twitter for a time. That's take a lot of planning in my mind to write. You would need thirty days of posts, thirty days of twitter posts, and an audience will to participate to treat it as real. Basically, a very interactive fiction.

    And this is just one idea. I'm sure there are other ways ton some level.

    A cross-genre slice=of-life, some adventure fluff fantasy stories about elves-->
  10. unice5656 (Moderator)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I don't know if this idea is particularly appealing to most fiction readers. I personally read fantasy because real life is depressing and I need to get away from it. I'm sure some people would be into it. It's up to you to decide who your target audience is.

    I don't really see this idea as "interactive". The reader doesn't have any input into the story. It's that personal investment in the story and outcome that make interactive stories appealing.

  11. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    It's kind of interactive but I suppose not in the traditional sense. I like to think of it as a different kind of interactive or another level.

    I was kind of basing that idea off of r/nosleep. It's a horror story community on reddit. Basically, the stories that are posted there are treated as being real. That's part of the fun for that community. Those who leave comments on the story pretend that what they are reading is real. I don't participate there. I'm not a fan of horror. However, I run into it like a year or two ago and a story there that caught my attention. I thought it was an interesting sub-reddit.

    Also, I seen no reason why you couldn't do this with urban fantasy. And maybe after a series of goofy ideas, you maybe able to do it with high fantasy. I've a way in my head that involves magic portals and the mixing of technology and magical communication. Heck when I thought of the idea, the story that I imagined wasn't even contemporary at all. Sure you can, but why limit yourself there? I was thinking of the lines of suspense or a cross country adventure involving ransom or something. Maybe superpowers being involved. In my mind, the only thing required from the audience is their willingness to suspend their disbelief and have a little fun.

    However, the issue is audience. And as I said, you would need a willing one for this to work. It won't appeal to everyone and it doesn't really have to. But it is an interesting concept and one I wouldn't mind seeing if someone could actually bring it to life. No one probably. Audience being one and then there is the fact that it's kind a story that would need to be experienced as it happens when it posts. I don't know if it would be any for the type of reader who waits until they a chunk of chapters to reader. Perhaps if you posted short episodes throughout the day to combat this it might make it better. I don't know, I was just throwing the idea out there.

    A cross-genre slice=of-life, some adventure fluff fantasy stories about elves-->
  12. Dary (Member)

    Posted 4 years ago

    I mean, it's ultimately just a modern, internet-focused equivalent to Dracula, really. And Dracula is fairly tame in its unconventional stylings.

    I wrote a plan for a serial once that would have been told exclusively through a survival shelter's intranet. This was before social media was a thing, so it was basically just people keeping blogs, plus a more sterile reporting of "facts" from the administration. Obviously, everything would contradict, and it was up to the reader to interpret what was really going on.

    Never got around to writing it, mind, because putting together the base website was such a slog.


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