Friday, March 9, 2012

Story Mode & Point-of-View for Transmedia Narratives

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Story Mode

The story mode refers to how the story relates to the audience during its presentation. There are two story modes:
  • Representational: In representational mode everything is expressed from the point of view of a character in the story and the author never addresses the audience. The story is presented as if a boundary is present that maintains the separation between the audience and the story.
  • Presentational: In presentational mode there is no boundary between the audience and the story. The author acknowledges the audience, either directly by addressing them or indirectly through a general attitude or specific use of language, looks, gestures or other signs that indicate the character aware of the audience's presence.
These two modes can be combined in a frame-story structure to add depth to the narrative. From the perspective of transmedia narrative design, a combination of representational and presentational story modes (with or without a frame-story structure) can be used from medium to medium to add different perspectives to the narrative.

Narrative Point-of-View

The narrative point-of-view determines who the narrator is and what perspective of characters and events of presented to the audience. The narrator may be a character in the story or may be outside the story with the ability to see all that happens. Narrative point-of-view presents some interesting opportunities for designing transmedia narratives.

With the first-person point-of-view the narrator is a participant in the story. The narrator may be the protagonist, someone who closely observes the principle character and is privy to the protagonist’s thoughts and actions, or a minor character who has little to do with the events in the narrative. Several rarely used variations of the first-person point-of-view include:
  • First-person plural where the narrator uses “we” to indicate a group that acts as a single unit
  • Multiple first-person narrators with each providing a different account of the same event
  • First-person stream of consciousness in which the narrator shares fragments of thoughts to reveal a mental state
  • First-person omniscient in which the narrator is a character in the story but has knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of all the other characters
  • Unreliable first-person narrator whose telling of the story can’t be trusted by the audience
In the second-person point-of-view the narrator refers to the protagonist or another main character using the word “you”. This has the effect of making the audience members feel as if they are characters within the story. Second-person point-of-view narratives are rare.

Comparison of narrative points-of-view
Singular Plural
First Person I did… We did…
Second Person You did… You did…
Third Person He did... She did... It did... They did...

The narrator in the third-person point-of-view refers to all of the characters in the story with terms like “he”, “she”, “it”, and “they”. The narrator is outside of the story. This is the most flexible point-of-view.

Each point-of-view has its limitations but they present opportunities when designing transmedia narratives. For example, different media might be used to present the differing accounts of multiple first-person narrators. The intense intimacy of the second-person point-of-view could present a powerful emotional draw for the audience. The third-person point-of-view can be used throughout the narrative or may be combined with the first- and second-person points-of-view to provide an interesting combination of perspectives. Epistolary novels, which typically consist of a series of letters written by different characters, provide a useful template for transmedia narratives in which different narrators switch between perspectives.

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