In a writing project that merges newspaper articles and fictional narrative together, we put the reader (and the writer for that matter) in a divergent storytelling place. A place that is more objective, offering and alternative to the portion they’ve already. I suppose I should explain this further. The writing project is based on narrative fiction that you might typically read, mixed with newspaper articles that give an alternative version of what you have just taken on.
Aesthetically, I’ve been thinking about this concept. Why would I want to write an article about my chapters or narrative that revolves around newspaper articles? What if they confuse the reader? What if it makes the reader question the narrative? This intersection of the novel offers a heterotopian crossing of two forms, fictional narrative and news reporting. Even if it is fictionalized, newspaper articles hold a certain form, a certain ideal that they should be straight forward and factual. However, fiction is based on creating something that is not real and crafting it into a believable artifact. What we expect from these two different concepts, fiction and newspaper articles, contradicts the modes in which we get information. More over, it suggests that the truth isn’t the narrative or the news articles, but something that is somewhere in between – in the connections and ideas made by the reader. The form, design, and construction of the story is already built to change the reader’s mind even in the first few pages. A vignette of a woman who is hit by a fish falling from the sky, matched by an article that suggests plausible reasons that this might happen. Or the next section where the main character meets a boy who has been missing for awhile. After she has a strange but innocent moment with the boy, we find out there is a search for the boy and the suggestion that he is probably dead. These two opposing forces place the reader to decide what to make of those two opposing angles of the story. This become partly interactive because the reader can chose which element of the story holds more weight. But it isn’t that simple. Sometimes, the two opposing elements agree, sometimes – they fight one another, and sometimes, they don’t even seem to connect. Could someone read all the articles, and then read the narrative? Or could they read the narrative and then add in the articles at the end, like a scrapbook of articles that support the book.
An idea that was floated around during a workshop was the possibility that a reader might be instructed to watch a small video clip or read a series of blog postings… stop reading the book… and do something else and bring back some knowledge to the narrative. It might be a complicated move through archives, videos, and other information accumulations – or it might be look at a few paintings online to understand what the characters in the book are seeing when they work with an art dealer. Interactivity doesn’t imply synchronicity to the story or the plot although most interaction is based on logical choice of (A) or (B). The vast inclusion of information and ideas that can be merged into narratives is as fascinating and engaging as people felt about The DiVinci Code or other books that remixed their common knowledge of history and art and gave them a new story.
Looking for new ways to keep the novel out of the grave doesn’t mean that the novel has to become something unrecognizable, but it should connect with the digital, physical and shifting changes of what we expect from interactive screens, interactive concepts and ideas. We don’t always have to make our novels interactive, we don’t always have to be innovative. Yet, we should be keen to look at where and when we can shift with the digital and physical art that surrounds us.