KH- Network fiction

Flight Paths and Inanimate Alice both merge nearly every imaginable medium—animation, photographs, video, audio, sound effects, text—to tell a story in a flash format. While each story is told in episodes, the episodes serve a different function in each case. In Inanimate Alice, each episode also contains a full, suspenseful narrative arc. Alice gets older in each episode and moves to a new city in a different country. The storyline also becomes less focused on her parents—she even begins calling them Ming and John—and becomes more concerned with school, friends, and the games she creates on her ba-xi. The animation also becomes clearer and more elaborate with each one; the interactivity increases and the amount of text decreases as Alice learns how to create more games.

In Inanimate Alice, the purpose of the episodes is pretty typical and comparable to an adolescent book series: same character, new place, new time, new adventure. In Flight Paths, however, the episodes are seemingly unconnected at first, and each one provides only a snippet into a moment of the characters’ lives. As opposed to Alice, these episodes don’t stand alone, and can be a little puzzling. Then, in the last one, everything comes full circle when the fonts used for the two different characters appear on different sides of the screen. The way that the narratives and fonts collide emphasizes the fact that one character quite literally collides with the car of the other character.

Beyond the use of episodes, these stories also use many visual and audio effects to enhance certain moments in the story. Bass-heavy music is used to set the mood, especially during action scenes. Heartbeats, breathing, and voices (without clearly spoken words) are added to suspenseful scenes. Game elements are added to Alice as she creates them in the story, and while they emphasize her development, I would argue that they distract from the larger plot.

Stylistically, in Alice the author was very careful to filter every sound, image, and text through Alice’s point of view, so readers could really feel as if they were inside her head. For example, when she is hiding in the closet, listening to her father argue with the Russians outside, the text slides onto the screen from the crack between the doors, almost as if the words are floating in to her from the outside.

In both series, the viewer also never clearly sees the characters’ faces or hears any words spoken by them. In this way, even though the stories did not contain much text and relied heavily on visuals, the viewer/reader is still forced to creatively interpret the story in his head. Both of these pieces of network fiction very much straddle whatever lines there are between visual, audio, and written storytelling.

-Kayla Hunter

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~ by kah117 on February 5, 2011.

 
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