Penguin has been doing the ‘let’s try something weird’ thing again, and they’ve created this little project called We Tell Stories. 6 authors, 6 stories, and 6 non-linear presentation styles. There’s a competition involved (presumably to up interest in the experiment), and each of the stories takes its inspiration from a classic. The first week’s story is inspired by The 39 Steps.
I am most interested in Penguin’s take on non-linearity: Penguin’s Digital Editor Jeremy Ettinghausen has in this post talked about how non-linearity just might be the presentation method of the future. And while his point about non-linear information-seeking in this age is valid, I don’t think it will translate to how stories play out – a beginning, a middle, and an end simply do not conform with a random bounce-bounce presentation of information. Stories are linear. We live our lives in a linear fashion. So, the presentation of a story has to be – more or less – linear.
However, I do believe a random bounce-bounce presentation of the events happening within a chapter (or, say, an hour in a 24 hour period) would work, though in the bigger picture the chapters (or hours) would be linear in nature.
On other sites: James Smythe has a wonderful post about the possible implications this move would have if it succeeds (or fails), and Lee is not impressed with the writing. I, on the other hand, think it to be a really good experiment to the presentation of fiction. There’s a lot more story here in than there ever was in Dreaming Methods (which read more like poetry than anything else), and the use of Google Maps as a visual aid to move the story along is just brilliant. Another plus point: We Write Stories does not use Flash.
Keep an eye on this. Week Two’s coming out, and I’d like to see how this particular presentation plays out.