Author's Note: About Færwhile

"Second to the right, and straight on till morning."

That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions.

—J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy, 1911

Peter Pan, to my nine-year-old self, was not yet a trickster or a psychological syndrome. He was not wicked. He was not an archetype. To me, reading in bed at night, not quite understanding how far away from turn-of-the-century London I was, he was an idol. Partly because he never grew up, of course. But mostly because he had such an amazing world in which to play, to imagine, to dream up awfully big adventures. My captivation with Peter and Wendy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Baum 1900), and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Carroll 1865) lay in storyworlds that created many potential stories, narrative possibilities that could be expressed in reading and in play.

The Færwhile project is the creative data that emerged as part of my scholarly exploration into the very sense of narrative possibility and play that rich, engaging storyworlds provide. The underlying creative drive for the work was to craft storyworlds that extended off the page, utilising the particular affordances of digital media, to present readers with a myriad of potential narratives (Montfort 2003) to explore, expand, and even interact with and construct themselves.

The overarching research purpose of this project was to explore the effects of shifting from a writing practice grounded in prose to one that is multimodal, and that results in multimedia texts. As a practicing fiction writer (short and long form fiction), I was intrigued by the affordances of digital media, in terms of creative play and narrative effects. How would the anti-linear (Ensslin 2012) structure of digital texts like websites and computer games affect my established practice of writing stories with clear Aristotelean dramatic structure? How would adding the possibility of image and music to my stories affect my composition practice, my narrative voice?

In order to answer these questions, I engaged in a practice-led research project: to create a fictional narrative in both analogue (print) and digital forms, observing and analysing the effects of this multimodal composition on my practice and the resulting narratives. This project in its entirety thus consists of both the creative artefacts and the critical exegesis that presents my analysis and answers to the research questions.

The creative artefacts encompass the analogue novella Færwhile and its digital counterpart. Færwhile is a tale inspired rather fundamentally by those stories of lost children that so captivated me as a child; it is crafted around three characters who are all lost, metaphorically as well as literally. Lilly and Ben are orphaned siblings, separated by the foster system, desperate to reunite; Amelia is an orphaned only child, removed far from the land, culture, and technology that shaped her sense of self before her parents' deaths.

Enter the Trickster figure, who lures each into Færwhile, a journey through a space of time, a storyworld crafted by dreams and imagination. Throughout their travels to find one another — whether by design or by luck — the Trickster both tells their tale and meddles within it, blurring the lines between story actors and storytellers. This blurring is reflected in the navigation, image, and audio in the digital fiction, and shown through metalepsis and shifts in narrative perspective in the analogue novella (explored in depth in the critical exegesis).

The digital fiction actualises the fabula through a variety of narrative media, including Flash fiction, interactive fiction, blog fiction, and hyperfiction. These platforms were chosen in order to gain a broader understanding of the available media and their literary affordances; the selection of each was based primarily on its suitability for best crafting and communicating the characters, themes, and voice of each individual story/chapter.

The critical exegesis, published separately (hopefully) presents the conclusions drawn regarding the research questions, within the scope of the project, examining both my experiences in crafting Færwhile, and analysis of the final artefacts. Publication details will be forthcoming.

References:

Barrie, J.M., 1911. Peter and Wendy. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Baum, F.L., 1900. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Chicago: George M. Hill Company.

Bierlein, J.F., 1994. Parallel Myths. New York: Ballantine Books.

Carroll, L., 1865. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: Macmillan and Co.

Edmonds, E.A., Weakley, A., Fell, M., Knott, R. and Pauletto, S., 2005. The Studio as Laboratory: Combining Creative Practice and Digital Technology. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, [online] 63(4-5), pp.452–481. Available at: http://research.it.uts.edu.au/creative/COSTART/pdfFiles/IJHCSSIpaper.pdf [Accessed 21 Feb 2013].

Ensslin, A., 2012. “I Want to Say I May Have Seen My Son Die This Morning”: Unintentional Unreliable Narration in Digital Fiction. Language and Literature, [online] 21(2), pp.136–149. Available at: http://lal.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/0963947011435859 [Accessed 31 May 2012].

Hyde, L., 1998. Trickster Makes this World: How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Montfort, N., 2003. Twisty Little Passages. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Niedderer, K. and Roworth-Stokes, S., 2007. The Role and Use of Creative Practice in Research and Its Contribution to Knowledge. In: IASDR07: International Association of Societies of Design Research. [online] Hong Kong. Available at: http://www.sd.polyu.edu.hk/iasdr/proceeding/papers/THE ROLE AND USE OF CREATIVE PRACTICE IN RESEARCH AND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO KNOWLEDGE.pdf [Accessed 21 Feb 2007].

 

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