Innovative Entertainment in Digital Story Writing

When I first read the short psychological thriller called “Your Place and Mine” by the couple Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, I thought that it was fairly well written. Even though the hints of “something is not right” could have been more subtle and woven in with more forethought, the story still managed to thrill me with its gruesome end. Once I found out, through an interview of the creators, that the authors had written “Your Place and Mine” almost on the spot in front of a live online audience, I greatly appreciated their dynamic storytelling. Suddenly, the back and forth short lines– almost like a chat, but with private thoughts – between the two characters, Terry and Laurence, seemed ingenious and perfectly fitting for the way the story was revealed. Readers also get a chance to read the raw, unfiltered writing which seems appropriate for developing an unstable character like Terry. The writers get a more responsive and interactive audience and get to see their responses in real time, while the audience members feel more connected with authors by seeing their real time (although fabricated) typing and backspaces. Even if the authors felt anxious with writing in front of thousands of readers, they felt excited to be able to engage readers in a completely original way by slowly revealing a riveting story bit by bit. This form of digital story writing manages to encompass the spirit of writing but with a genius twist in entertainment, making it successful and hopefully one of the first of many to come.

Gerrard, Nicci, and Sean French. “Your Place and Mine.” We Tell Stories. Penguin, 7 Apr. 2008. Web. 24 June 2016.

Snail-Moving Plot or Riveting Characters?

How Austen’s excessive characterization competes with building eccentric characters in Sanditon

Austen, Jane, and Margaret Drabble. Lady Susan ; The Watsons ; Sanditon. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. EBook.

           As Jane Austen lay in her bed ailing of an unknown disease some 200 years ago, she took to her pen and wrote the beginnings of an auspicious book named Sanditon. Taking place in a fishing village turned resort called Sanditon, the novel begins to explore the intricate relationships of various interesting characters who have amassed there. This novel is told through the eye of our detached heroine named Charlotte who observes people feigning illness, a love-struck seducer, and other odd visitors who have assembled in this village. Through this narrative, we can get a glimpse of the turbulent thoughts that may have been going through Austen’s mind as she lay in her death bed. Although Austen’s unfinished novel failed to deliver a compelling enough plot with its huge emphasis on character development, it was well written with ironic tones.

           Readers who are well acquainted with Austin’s other works may be familiar with her particularly descriptive writing. Rather than telling a story with striking plot twists or an exciting storyline, she prefers to entice readers with highly developed characters. Stories written by her hand become less about the physical happenings of characters and more about how they overcome flaws, prejudices, and reassess one another. Similarly, it seems that Sanditon was headed in a similar direction. Although I found myself slightly captivated with a few odd characters such as Arthur Parker and Sir Edward Denham, I found Sanditon’s storyline a little strained because of the unreliable narratives. While riding up to Sanditon, Mr. Parker describes Lady Denham as “a very good-natured woman” (Austen 166) only to be refuted after our heroine, Charlotte, has a conversation with her and decides that she is “thoroughly mean” (189). Mr. Parker is then judged by Charlotte as “too mild…and not to be trusted” (189).  I began to feel frustrated that Austen took great care in setting up her characters in lengthy chapters only to contradict it later on a few short pages. Even though I can appreciate the intricacies of Austin’s narrative in this incomplete novel, I would have enjoyed it more if it included more engaging conflicts beyond the changing opinions of characters.

           The few scenes or lines that continued to engage me through what would have otherwise been a tedious reading had an undertone of humor and irony. It was hard to miss Austen’s scorn at the various remedies that trended at the time and used the three hypochondriac Parker siblings to show it. Stories of a sister with a persistent headache had “three teeth drawn” (175) to cure it, testimony of their coachman’s sprained ankle miraculously cured through the “immediate use of friction…for six hours” (174), and a brother claiming that two cups of green tea could “take away the use of [his] right side” (202) undermined any seriousness in their characters. One particular scene that was laced thickly with humor describes the Parker brother made cocoa and spreading butter on his toast. After concocting excessively thick cocoa and boasting as a good toaster, he asserts that dry toast is “very bad indeed for the coats of the stomach” (202) and proceeds to thickly coat his toast with butter. Such odd scenes, that endeared me to the characters, seemed almost misplaced in the story and could only be for the purpose of further establishing characters. Because I found Austen’s amusing scenes a very entertaining way to develop character, I was able to keep reading through what would have otherwise been a dreary narrative.

           Admitting that I did find a few fatal flaws in Sanditon, as the writing style and static plot threw me off, I recognize that this story was able to hook me in with a few outlandish lines. As Sanditon had potential, as it had not been given the opportunity to grow as Austen had intended before her untimely demise, I give it the benefit of my doubt and would give this novel a timid three and a half stars.

A Kaleidoscope of Body Parts

 

 

The first thing that catches your attention as you open “my body – a Wunderkammer” by Shelley Jackson, is the audio of deep and heavy breaths and a black and white sketch of the lower face of a person. The title and soundtrack lends itself to impress that the author plans to be bold and maybe even brazen as she presents her own body in this work; this turns out to be true. Clicking the banner leads to another sketch, this time of a woman’s naked body drawn in stark white over a black background. The drab picture seems to objectify her by putting her on full display and labeling her body parts with purpose and little care for what they mean to her. With no clear beginning or end, it’s to the discretion of readers on how to start – which body part to click on first. Each section contains anecdotes and half-formed recollections of how the woman grew up with and explored her body. Links embedded in seemingly irrelevant words or phrases lead to other parts or unnamed facets of herself to build a kaleidoscope – a wunderkammer – of her body. Although my Pinterest board is not nearly as intricately woven, I strived to reflect a similar mood that Jackson gave using  fragmented scandalous photos and drawings of women. Faces drawn with perfect proportions, a half-formed portrait, a mesh of organs wedged into a torso and numerous women bared on display emphasizes some of the struggles women may feel growing up in an objectifying environment.

Jackson, Shelley. “‘my Body’ – a Wunderkammer & (Shelly Jackson).” ‘my Body’ – a Wunderkammer & (Shelly Jackson). N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.