Monday, January 16, 2012

Storyworld Level Design Tasks - Events

Events are a change in the state of an entity such as a setting or character. External events (outside of a character in the story) may be the result of an uninitiated change (out of the control of a character in the story). An uninitiated change could be a natural disaster or a man-made disaster which is caused by someone who is outside the scope of the story.

A war story, for example, may have the war as an uninitiated change if the main characters are ordinary soldiers on the frontlines. An event may also occur as the result of an initiated change, which is the result of the actions of a character in the story. For example, if the actions of a leader that take a nation into war are part of the narrative, the war would be an example of an initiated change.

The interaction of two characters or a character and an event may result in internal events that are the changes to the character. These “mental events” are an important element of the storyworld (Ryan, Storyworlds Across Media, 2011). They involve the emotional reactions, psychological transformations, and other internal changes in the characters. Internal events are typically the result of a character’s interaction with external events, settings, or other characters.

Events, once published, become part of the “official” history of the storyworld and should not be changed except perhaps if the author intends to create an alternate storyworld.

Events have a temporal dimension; they have a start and end point and span a period of storyworld time. Events can also be nested inside other events. For example, a particular battle in a war story can take place within a broader war event. This nesting of events provides an opportunity to use a transmedia approach to expand the storyworld.

The Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell and adapted as a television series by ITV encompasses more than 25 novels and short stories that chronicle rise of Richard Sharpe, a fictional character, in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars (Cornwell, n.d.). Although not a transmedia narrative, the Sharpe series illustrates how the nesting of events can provide additional detail to a storyworld and the characters within it. The short story “Sharpe’s Christmas” published in the Sharpe’s Christmas takes place towards the end of the Peninsular War, while the short story “Sharpe’s Ransom” published in the same book occurs after the Battle of Waterloo. These two short stories fill in gaps in the timeline between individual stories – after the storytime in Sharpe’s Regiment in the case of the first short story and after Sharpe’s Waterloo in the case of the second.

The events of the storyworld can be used to extend the transmedia narrative by having encyclopedia-style articles of History Channel-style documentaries. It is also possible to use the nesting of events to create a narrative that delves more deeply into a particular event that is incidental to the story of a broader event. Although Cornwell has not done so, it would certainly be possible to nest a story of a fictional commando raid (like Sharpe’s Siege) within the storyworld time that is already occupied by another story that spans a broader period of time.

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