Non-Traditional Storytelling

Yesterday I finished reading The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero (and am slightly jealous, because English is his second language and you totally cannot tell). The story is told through journal entries, letters, video and audio recording transcripts, and one of the character’s (who is mute) notes.

(Also, there is an unexpected twist right at the end, so I am at turns annoyed and impressed.)

The format reminded me of House of Leaves, though less headache inducing. For those of you who missed the HoL cart ten years ago or whenever it was, HoL is a horror story told through a variety of formats as well. It also plays with text location (such as having text appear only on a portion of the page, depending on the physical location of the characters).

When done well, non-traditional storytelling can be amazing. When done poorly, it comes across as contrived and overworked.

I am not prone to fanfiction (because I find it hard to manipulate characters that are not my own), but I did a group fanfic once. I was a teenager–15 or 16–and it was for a computer game series that I have never played. A friend asked me to join because she knew I liked to write. There were quite a few of us–10 or 15–and we rotated chapters. The last few chapters someone programmed to be interactive on the Internet (such as it was, back in the late 90s). At the time it was amazing.

Now you hear about new media storytelling, where stories bridge formats. You have interactive stories where the reader has to help the story along, or can get different results depending on choices (Choose Your Own Adventure books being an old-school version of this). When The Da Vinci code came out, they had a game set up where you had to call phone numbers, email “people,” and solve puzzles to get to the end. (The latter is arguably something called an ARG: alternate reality game. ARGs fascinate me and I think it would be fun to do one, but also a huge amount of work.)

It was interesting reading The Supernatural Enhancements because I am also reading Charles de Lint’s Moonheart, which is about as traditional as you can get.

Do you like non-traditional storytelling, Squiders? I do, but in small quantities, since sometimes I feel like they can be difficult to work through. (TSE, however, is a nice, easy read, so I do recommend it.) What’s your favorite non-traditional story? Ever done an ARG? If so, which one and how did you like it? I did Perplex City for a while until someone solved it, but found it hard to keep up with the narrative on top of the puzzles.

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