Friday, April 03, 2015

The Annotated "Saving the Planet & Stuff" Part Two: Using Digital Communication To Tell Story

In Saving the Planet & Stuff Michael communicates with friends through Instant Messenger (this book was originally published in 2003, remember), and uses e-mail with family and at work. I was influenced by Walter Dean Myers' Monster, in which the main character uses the screenplay he's working on and journal entries to tell his story.

In the following conversation between Michael (MP3 for Michael Peter Racine III) and his friend (who is off working on a paleontological dig) we learn why Michael doesn't have a summer job.  That is the situation that leads him to accept Walt and Nora's invitation to go to Vermont with them.

MP3: I WASN'T FIRED!!! I was working for my uncle. what kind of jerk can't keep a job working for his own uncle?
ProfBlakie: Well, ah, you, I thought.
MP3: who told you I was fired? everyone we know is out of town.
ProfBlakie: My mother.
MP3: !!!! and she believed it? after all those years i spent drinking her soda & eating her potato chips she'd believe a story like that? about me?
ProfBlakie: I think she believed it BECAUSE of all those years you drank her soda and ate her potato chips.
MP3: I WASN'T FIRED!!! the job ended. that's entirely different.
ProfBlakie: Okay.
MP3: it's true! word got around that uncle bobby's landscaping business wasn't in good shape and no one wanted to hire him so there was no work for anyone who worked for him.
ProfBlakie: Why wasn't his business in good shape?
MP3: Uh. … he was passing bad checks.
ProfBlakie: Oops.
MP3: you should hear my brother. 'you mean you can get in trouble for not paying your bills?' if I live a hundred years I will never understand how Eddie got classified as gifted.
ProfBlakie: Clerical error. Those things stick with you for years.
MP3: so I wasn't fired.
ProfBlakie: Okay.
MP3: I wasn't

The point to keep in mind when using devices like this is that the device must carry the story. It must be part of the story telling/narrative and not there as a gimmick. It also can't just repeat information that appears in the traditional part of the narrative, as if it's just illustrating something that has been said in some other way. Using it as a gimmick or an illustration will slow down the narrative drive, the flow of the story.

Because these different types of formats were used in STP&S,  it was included in the bibliography/ article The Text Generation: Fiction That Incorporates Digital Communication by Melanie Koss, which was published in Book Links in 2008. That was two years after the hardcover edition went out of print.

Koss compared books using "e-mails, instant messages, chat room conversations, electronic newsletters, text messages, and blog entries" to "the traditional epistolary story told in letters."

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