Meadows' Pause and Effect
Working Notes, by Zach Tomaszewski
for ICS 699, Spring 2005, directed by Dr. Kim Binsted
Meadows, Mark Stephens. Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders, 2003.
- Narrative requires perspective. That is, beyond a simple plot (series of events), there needs to be some opinion or perspective conveyed. An inherent commentary or stance of the author's.
- Meadows' definition of IN: "Interactive narrative is a time-based representation of character and action in which the reader can affect, change, or choose the plot. 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person characters may be the reader. Opinion and perspective inherent. Image likely." Only mode of interaction is plot manipulation? Choosing POV, initial character parameters, or theme not IN?
- Stories through images; other non-linear stories. Text [and audio] are linear and over time. Is narrative necessarily linear? If so, then an open plot structure == no narrative? How essential is time and linearity to narrative? Also interesting: the idea of spatial structure/metaphor to narrative--branching plot, twists, story arc, etc.--and how to demonstrate/amplify that spatially. [Wayfinding?] Can more information be relayed in 3D rather than 2D?
- POV => emotional connection. 1st, 2nd, 3rd person computer game POVs. Allow for different levels of agency, urgency, mimetics (imitation of life). [Meadows comments that film is more immediate and can be more effective due to control over POV. Yet I hold that theater (and live storytelling) can be more effective--not for POV reasons, but due to the immediacy of live action. Same with improv--knowing even the actors don't know what comes next; a story told just this once.]
- Interest and investment. These seem to point towards satisfaction. Investment is giving something to be involved in the story: time, money, identifying with a character, working on or simply reading the story, (online: reputation in the space, score/success). Interest is magnified by investment, but comes also from plot structure, events, suspense/tension, mystery, release.
- Future prediction from Meadows: multi-user environments will increase reader investment. However, there will be a move to smaller, pocket realms where human interaction is more focused and controlled by the readers, and where the spotlight in the story can be more easily shared. To do this, more quality AI NPCs will be needed to uphold the story and fill in the missing human randomness in a smaller group.
- Freytag's triangle. Is this "thickening" of the plot refer to the reader's interest and emotional connection/investment, or only to the resolution of the problem? Emotionally, climax comes very near the end. This "emotional climax" could be related through flashback and non-linear time. Resolution of the problem could come earlier (mystery, etc.)
- Elements we need to define/label:
- The underlying reality of the tale. (Gravity, customs, existence of other towns.) Things never mentioned in the story but assumed (though if changed, could intrude on the story). Don't directly (explicitly) affect the story.
- Events in time. What are (all) the events referred to or comprising the story? In absolute, linear time.
- Events presented. What events do we actually see/experience in the narrative, and in what order?
- On this note, what do these different terms denote: narrative, story, plot.
- What does narrative need? Plot (series of events). POV (some view on those events; probably requires character; probably leads to Meadows' perspective?). Resolution (don't we crave a satisfactory ending?).
- Satisfaction keeps coming up. There are the "external" features of narrative that are the elements we're discussing: plot, POV, setting, character, etc. But there are also in the internal experiences, most important of which is satisfaction. Analogy: there are recommended elements of humor, but the real test is if you laugh.
- Improv tasks: 1. Find a problem. 2. Find an ending (resolution). A problem is easy to create--follow the rule of "tilt" and keep breaking whatever pattern you've set up so far.
- Meadows: A football game is a narrative if it is commentated (has a perspective). A spectator watching the game has a perspective, but does not preceive the action through another's perspective.