"Pedro Monteiro passed along this in-depth look at digital narratives. Monteiro is a consultant for INNOVATION Media Consulting and coordinates tablet publications for Impresa Publishing (Expresso, Visão), a division of Portugal's largest media company. This article first appeared on Monteiro's own website Digital Distribution.
The way we tell stories in the print media has been, mostly, the same for some time now. Space constraints and graphic layout have made the narrative flow a broken one. With the advent of digital devices and rich new ways of shaping content, it is time to rethink how we produce and present our stories.
With this article I want to explain why the broken narrative experience happens and how we can find ways to prevent it on digital publishing. Furthermore, I will propose a way of planning, producing and designing narratives that won’t suffer from this problem. In the end, I’ll take a fictional story and share how I would plan it, from production to presentation, using the ideas proposed on this article.
For this article I will refer to linear narrative – that with a beginning, middle and an end. Think of it has going to the theater to watch a movie. You go into the room and the movie starts. You can be watching Memento, a traditional non-liner screenplay. The movie goes forward and backward in time. But as a part of the audience when you experience the going to the theater to see Memento, you’ll be in a linear narrative: you go, you watch the movie (regardless of it’s timeline narrative), the movie ends, you get out of the theater and your linear experience ends. You went to the theater and watched a story, without interruption, regardless of how the story was told.
Likewise, when describing non-linear narratives, I will not be focusing on their timeline, but on interruptions of the narrative itself. Like going to the movies to watch Memento – and being interrupted in the middle by a documentary about the film itself, and then having the main film start again where it was interrupted. You went to the theater to watch a story, but the experience was interrupted by another story, regardless of the way both stories connected.
Let me start with a simple story. Think about a lecturer who may have inspired you – if you can’t remember one, I advise you to visit TED’s website, where you will find amazing people, with amazing ideas, telling amazing stories.
OK, now that you have a lecture as an example, let’s analyze it. What makes it such a brilliant storytelling experience? Apart from the speaker’s ability to deliver a good story and from the talk’s content, a good lecture is a linear flow of information, with a beginning, middle and an end, or conclusion. That’s the basic of a story; we’ve learned how to do it from an early age...."