Throughout time technology has changed how the writer crafts his novel. From pen and paper, to typewriters, to word processing—the tools of the trade are constantly evolving. In today’s world, the writer can craft a sentence and move it around to different places, supplementing paragraphs where he sees fit. This can be a powerful tool, that makes the revision process more fluid and dynamic. An author can be less committed to putting something on a page, where it can be easily reshaped, moved, and removed. While this technology has fundamentally changed how the novelist crafts his work, it hasn’t really changed how the reader consumes it. Sure, we are in a period of time that is showing the rise of e-readers and digital print, but ultimately the novel is being experienced in the same traditional way.
Video games have become an interesting form of interactive storytelling, and I could see the case be made that what I am discussing is teetering on being more of a game, but I would argue otherwise. Games usually focus heavily on having actual gameplay components which aren’t necessarily integral to the story. (If you would like to read a piece on Storytelling in Video Games check out Jessica M. Tuckerman’s OP ED!) I think technology allows for a seamless blend of multimedia. There is untapped potential that could allow an author to really flesh out their world and make it feel more alive to those reading it.
Now, do I think the multimedia approach should become the standard of all novels? Of course not, but this is something that has to be explored. It might not always be appropriate, but in the correct circumstances it could add new layers to storytelling. Multimedia novels are a fascinating idea and authors are only scratching the surface of potential. As always, people are afraid of change. Those established in the field don’t want to alter how they do things, especially when multimedia projects are changing the way a story is told.
An author may not be a photographer, a programmer, a graphic designer; a novel is often written by a person, and then revised by an editor. A multimedia piece may demand collaboration, which changes what many are used to. This is why I think we are far from this becoming common. The novel is sacred, and some may view this evolution as taking away the literary merit. In order for multimedia literature to succeed, it needs to earn its credit, and while there are many interesting pieces already, we haven’t seen one captivate larger audiences. What’s exciting is that people have begun experimenting with different ways to present their stories, and I think we will continue to see different approaches in the coming years. It will be interesting to see how these things are accepted and if we see a shift from the traditional novel in the future.