A Look At Dreaming Methods

Dreaming MethodsDreaming Methods is ambitious. It’s digital fiction, but not in a way you’d expect: instead of blogs or static text pages the stories in Methods are presented in Flash.

This choice in medium in intentional: the stories Methods produce are rich in sound and movement and colour. In Last Dream, a grandson narrates (in words) his blind grandfather’s final dream. The camera shakes as it introduces you to the story, and the first frame you pause on is that of an old house. The screen is black and white, with dashes of green from the shrubbery in the foreground.

The door is locked. Clicking it produces a thudding sound, barring you from entry. And your throat catches as you realize something about these stories.

They are interactive. You click on a rock and drag it around the screen, throwing it here, throwing it there. And soon you find the key to the door, and it grants you entry.

Rich in visual delights (the walls of the house are translucent, showing stalks of tall corn as you pan over them), the words and story in Last Dream are more of poetry than prose. They appear, you read, and then they fade away. And they don’t come back. If you missed a word it’s back to the start you go, for these things play like life, rather than literature. No rewind. No turn the page back.

Alan Campbell is the guy behind Methods, and he’s has been experimenting with writing fiction for the computer screen since the 1990’s. Many of his projects are collaborations with artists from other mediums – if he took those photos of the house used in Last Dream I’d consider worshiping him.

Parts of Methods‘s stories are in video, like in Clearance, where he worked with filmmaker Judi Alston to tell an apocalyptic story in digital form (so says this post). This form of online fiction cannot be done by a one man crew, unless that one man is willing to learn photography and writing and film-making and flash programming all at the same time.
Methods‘s fiction can’t be categorized. It’s film, but with gameplay. Prose, but with sound. Animation, but with photographs. A highly experimental medium with feedback forms at the end of every story.

What is it, exactly? I can’t say. But I’d like to think it’s a taste of the future.

PS: Special thanks to Lee of Lowebrow for the links.

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Category: Publishing · Writing Web Fiction
  • http://www.alexandraerin.com Alexandra Erin

    Interesting. I am inexorably reminded of the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean collaborations, wth Neil’s writing and Dave’s mixed media artwork.

  • http://thebookaholic.blogspot.com bibliobibuli

    i agree with you. one branch of the future for sure.

    was thinking hard about ebooks. i believe that if ebooks become the main way in which books are read, it will be fine for reference materials. maybe for short literary texts. but it would be the end of novels.

    why have static words on an electronic page when you can have so much more going on, other media can be integrated and when reading can be so interactive?

    i think we will see a new hybrid form.

    and i also think the printed book (especially for the novel) will still have its place.

    btw – it might just be me but i found these stories hard to navigate. didn’t know where to click or what to do. dunce. duh.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    @Lexy: Neil Gaiman sounds very familiar. Where have I heard of him before?

    @Sharon: It’s still highly experimental, but I’m betting these kind of works will thrive on the Internet. They’re free, they’re engaging, and they appeal to a generation that doesn’t read so much as watch.

    Same here. I think it’s purposely built that way – like a puzzle you have to solve before the next part of the story unfolds.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    @Eli: You may have heard of Sandman (the comic book series) or his various novels (American Gods, Good Omens, Anansi Boys).

    If not, this seems to be the year for Neil Gaiman movies. He wrote the screenplay for Beowulf (released in Novermber 2007) and the novel that Stardust (movie released in August 2007) was based on.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    Er… Make that “last year seems to have been” the year for Neil Gaiman movies… Still haven’t adjusted to the fact that it’s 2008.

    On the other hand, “Coraline” (another movie based on one of Gaiman’s novels) will come out in 2008.

  • http://nomananisland.wordpress.com Gavin Williams

    And I thought Alexandra was being ambitious when she used the web for her serial with bonus chapters, and then I took that model and had chapters branching off from the main storyline so that readers could follow the thread they were most interested in.

    This site goes way further, in an amazing way.

    However, I agree with the comment that traditional books might always have a place — they may become digital, but prose stories themselves are special because the pictures and scenes necessarily come from the readers’ imaginations interacting with the words of the author. That’s a special relationship that I don’t think can be replaced, no matter how cool a mixed media idea might be.

    I think it’s awesome and almost its own art form, but I hope prose sticks around.

  • http://www.alexandraerin.com Alexandra Erin

    I’ve no doubt that prose will. The radio and the TV didn’t end it, did they? Prose is more portable, more accessible, and has lower barriers to entry.

  • http://darkmatterswebnovel.com Theron Gibbons

    I think the best rough fit for this kind of work is Intermedia, which is a relatively new style of art in and of itself. I have seen this kind of story telling played out in a gallery format as well, where as many senses as possible are engaged to relay a concept that might be simple or symbolically complex. I have also seen what might seem the opposite, a story told on oddly assorted slabs of sculpted brass, set in a gallery so one had to walk about from page to page. I forget the author/artist, as this was many years ago, but it took me most of the day to read it, and I regret now that I didn’t have some large pieces of paper and crayons with me, so I could try to get into trouble ‘collecting’ the works .

    I highly doubt that prose is going anywhere, because it is perhaps the most illusory of the artforms in which ideas can be expressed. It engages the senses most intimately by simply not engaging any of the senses.

  • http://obtrusive.blogspot.com Sebatinsky

    My feedback on the site:

    I agree with Eli at http://www.novelr.com/2008/01/04/a-look-at-dreaming-methods
    that this is a very ambitious project. I’m not certain that I agree about how successful it is. Although you achieve something very interesting by combining media in a fairly innovative way, I’m afraid that you’ve combined more limitations than you have benefits.

    Like a TV show, there is a forced engagement – you cannot enjoy the story at your own pace like a traditional story or book. However, you don’t gain one of the large advantages of the visual media, which is ease of understanding. This requires at least as much concentration as a traditional story, but, in my opinion, delivers less.

    Where this project excels is atmosphere. The soundtrack on the story I read was excellent, and the drawings and paper in the background were excellent (although some of the stuff in the foreground obscured words, and that was frustrating.)

    So, overall I am impressed with the audacity of this project, but underwhelmed with this approach to media as a possible category or genre for future storytelling.


  • http://darkmatterswebnovel.com Theron Gibbons

    I know it takes an entirely different tac, but Lizzy, a comic at http://comics.cyberneticevilstudios.com/ , uses a similar approach to integrate images, animation, and sound, and tell a story in a more straightforward approach to tell a rather violent, somewhat sexually charged science fiction story.

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