This project was very different from projects I’ve done for other courses, in that I had to incorporate social media and technology elements into storytelling. I’ve taken fiction writing courses before. Developing characters and story lines is something I’m used to, if anyone can be used to that sort of thing. What was different was the integration of new media into my storytelling — a difference that made me think of fiction in new ways.
These ways included contemplating the most effective medium through which to tell my story. Normally when I write fiction, I think of my work as a straightforward text intended for the pages of a book. I didn’t stray too far from that medium with this project — my plan was to plug my text into a WordPress post. Still, the prospect of publishing a piece of fiction on a blog (instead of in a book), where anyone can read it and at any time, applies a new, accessible and nontraditional spin to storytelling.
Having quite a bit of experience writing fiction (and writing in general), I didn’t have difficulty conceiving ideas for my plot and characters. That’s not to say it isn’t a difficult process; when I sit down for what I think of as “serious writing,” I gruel over characters and very slowly construct plot around those characters. I didn’t approach this assignment with as much scrutiny and attention to detail. Although sometimes, I’ve found, writing quickly and less scrupulously is an effective tactic to develop ideas and identify a direction. The rough spots can always be smoothed over later.
Where I did have more difficulty was differentiating my work from traditional storytelling akin to the short story. I’m used to the short story; I’m comfortable with the short story. That’s why I wanted to write a blog post in which there isn’t a traditional plot/story arc. I heard some students planned their stories to unfold exclusively on Twitter or an email chain, which I think is interesting and inventive.
Our in-class discussions and lessons certainly influenced the way I went about this project. I tried to incorporate my favorite pieces of some of the fictions and social media projects we have been asked to read/watch. One of my favorites is “You Suck At Photoshop,” and I used “You Suck” as partial inspiration for my lead character and for tone/feel/mood ideas. I also drew inspiration from “The Onion,” which I enjoy reading in my free time.
I think this type of writing and this avenue of publication have advantages over traditional writing. Fiction writers can languish for years before they have a piece published, if they’re fortunate enough to have a piece published at all. The Internet, however, has created a forum in which writers, artists, musicians and all creators can self-publish. This, obviously, allows creators to increase exposure to their work, foster a following and receive satisfaction they might have not received had they gone the traditional publishing route.
This project and this course has stretched my understanding of what fiction can be and how it can unfold. I’m a traditionalist. I like to read books and newspapers, and some of the storytelling concepts we’ve discussed in class have seemed avant-garde. While I still prefer to sit down with a novel or work on a short story, I feel I have a greater appreciation for fiction as an open-ended concept that doesn’t necessarily need to adhere to tradition.
I don’t know whether this project will have any tangible effects on my writing. Perhaps I’ll be more likely to include elements of new media (Twitter, Facebook, email, blogging) into my preferred, traditional method of storytelling. I think the bigger impact will be seen in how and what I choose to read and watch. I’m now aware of different types and mediums of fiction, which greatly expands the catalog of pieces to which I have access.