June 28th, 2009 by susan

In answering comments this morning I wanted to share the concept of some hypertext advantages in writing that can be used by the writer to enforce, enhance, demystify the story for the reader.

One is color. In writing for the 100 Days Project, I find I’m selecting color themes for the individual stories based on the mood or tone of the story. For example, using the bold primary colors for #10 Dimensional which is futuristic; using silvery greys for the psychological unreality of #17 Smoke and Mirrors; feminine pinks and mauves for #19 The Perfect Woman.

Another use of color is change of mood or indication of a change of some sort within the story. In one of my favorite pieces because it plays a bit on the Interactive Fiction influence of text games, #30 Dark Moves, the change from the text box from beige to black indicates a time when the lights go off as electricity is lost during a thunderstorm. It’s subtle, but it can be an effective tool.

I’ve used placement of text box as an important clue to the reader that something in the story has shifted: it could be point of view, space or setting, or the space of time, meaning backstory. In the latest piece, #37 Love and War, there are two narrative voices, that of first person in the character of the wife, and a third person pov following the movement of her husband during the same time period. I’ve also taken advantage of the traditional method of change which is italicizing so that even in reading traditional book form, we know there is a change of character or setting–think Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

Size of the text boxes are also relevant: the narrow 225-pixel size I’ve been using as asides, or for containing intersecting passages.

These are tools for the writer to use to not only guide or give clues to the reader, but to visually enhance the story.

4 Responses to “HYPERTEXT & WRITING: Tools”

  1. Mary Ellen Says:

    Wow, I guess I better start paying attention. Silly me, I’ve only been reading the story.

  2. susan Says:

    You’re good for me. You make me think.

    You’ve brought up an interesting point: Is all this just embellishment? Like the illustrations of olde? Shouldn’t I, as a writer, be thrilled that someone is focusing on the words alone? Then again, in the digital age, the mindset is one of graphics and visual stimulation. Should the color, placement, etc. elements be considered part of the story?


  3. Chris Says:

    Well, that’s the debate that came to mind when I read this — I had it drummed into my head that when you’re first composing a story, you should do it in as ugly a font as possible (i.e. Courier) so that your focus was on the words on the page, and not on any of the presentation. Still, I don’t think it’s a bad thing, perhaps just a necessary consequence of writers becoming publishers. It reminds me a little of Blake’s illustrated manuscripts.

  4. susan Says:

    I work directly into the Tinderbox environment which is pretty basic as far as text, black Lucida Grande 12 pt. (I really have to bring it up to 14 pt) so I’m not working into a distracting environment. Tinderbox can get pretty fancy to work in, but I’m keeping it pretty basic until via the css sheet transforms it as html to be exported online.

    I was thinking–as you–of Blake’s illustrations as far as the reader is concerned. Is it too much? Is it unnecessary? Does it add to detract from the experience? Well, maybe it’s because of Blake’s writing that it didn’t hurt him any; his words far outshine the graphics. Me, maybe I could use the help. (I tell my framing customers the same thing; keep simple matting and framing on most stuff, but even a Yale diploma could us some gold lines on the matting and a more interesting frame.

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