Experimenting with Better Content: Day 1

So I’ve decided earlier that I’m going to take a story of mine apart and see if I can do something about its form to make it more engaging.

First, The Story.

After careful consideration, here’s the story I’ve picked:

Screenshot of the short story
The current state of the story, which can be found here

I chose this story because it’s a short one, plus there are a variety of scenes, from the dreamscape to the narrator’s house to perhaps his office or the clinic. And there are a few dialogues too, adding to the variety of content. This makes for an interesting combination that should allow me to explore a wide range of possibilities.

From Flipping Pages to Viewport Scrolling.

Earlier, the story was slapped right onto the webpage without any consideration for its structure. A story is, of course, broken up into paragraphs, dictated at the point of writing by the writer (in this case myself) on how to make the breaks and how to maintain the rhythm. When transferring the text over, though, I wasn’t particularly concerned over how this rhythm might change on a webpage. Unlike with a physical book, the way a user engages with webpage content is by scrolling, via either the mouse or a keyboard or swiping. This means that the way the paragraphs are placed should change too. With traditional publishing, the writer and publisher have limited control over where each paragraph should be placed. With a webpage, there is a high degree of precision that provides complete control over where each part of the content should be placed and accessed. This could be an area to look into with this exercise, to strategically place the content in a way that best engages the reader.

Unbridled Creative Expression.

Besides copying the text over, I made some basic styling changes. I chose a font family, increased the font size of the first sentence, and used a subtle texture for the background. The way I look at it now, though, these are merely baby steps; a mere starting point.

The versatility of content type on a webpage means I can go way beyond this, by perhaps inserting graphics or audio or even video. I can alter the size or color of text as I wish, and combine different fonts. I can add icons and animate elements on the page—the possibilities are endless. To my mind, inserting content on a webpage is like manipulating text and graphics in graphic design, only way more powerful. Furthermore, in my case, freed from the constraints of commercial considerations, there’s nowhere I can’t go in terms of creative expression. This exercise will be a preliminary test, a hint at the possibilities offered to us.

Don’t Go Too Far.

A word of warning to myself, though: no matter how much control and creative possibilities are offered, I must never forget that the story is the key here. If I go too far with the layout and styling, so much so that the story is lost as a result, then I have failed as a storyteller.

The layout and styling are there to enhance the content, not draw attention away from the content.

Furthermore, the more time and effort spent on such enhancements, the less practical it becomes to do them. A balance is thus necessary. I will need to bear the above in mind for the rest of this exercise.

A Good Starting Point.

Now that I have the story and the key differences between telling a story via physical books versus telling a story on a webpage, I believe I’m ready to start. I’ll most probably start off from the top to the end, examining each paragraph/part of the story and deciding how best to enhance it with the tools offered by web technology. It will likely take several posts, but this should be an interesting journey. Hope you enjoy the ride.