Types of Media: Write It Out

Each week during DigiWriMo, we’re going to be receiving weekly prompts we can work with in addition to (or perhaps even influencing) our weekly writing plans. This week’s prompt has us thinking about cross-media stories, starting a story in our primary medium, continuing it in another media, and then wrapping it up in the third medium (which I somehow read as “the medium you don’t do”. I may be projecting there. Just a bit.).

It took me several minutes to realize “media” was being classified as text, audio, and visual. (In my defense, I hadn’t had my morning chai yet.) When I finally caught on, my first thought was, Wow! That’s leaving out a lot. And then I had my chai and started thinking about how I wanted to respond to the prompt, and realized that at its most basic level, media really does come in three flavors. But each of those flavors has its own options. For example, text comes in three varieties: linear, nonlinear with some sort of overarching connection, and nonlinear with no connection.

We’re all pretty familiar with linear writing. We’ve all read (or at least skimmed) a novel or chapter book at some point in our lives. Linear writing involves writing chunks that fall one behind the other in an order that either takes place chronologically or is meant to be consumed in the presented order. Novels traditionally fall under that first description, although I can think of some novels where backstory or alternate timelines are woven throughout the story. Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives are a wonderful example of this. My blog series on building a personal learning environment (PLE) is a hybrid example. The five stages of the PLE are in a chronological example, each stage requiring previous stages to be completed before they’re attempted, but the posts within each stage’s discussion are expected to be read in the order they were posted.

Without being actively aware of it, a fair number of us have experienced nonlinear writing with some sort of overarching connection. That’s pretty much the description of short story anthologies: a number of short stories brought together because they feature the same characters, setting, or theme. It’s also the branched narrative so common to interactive fiction and games that have a story element, where the reader can choose which parts of the story they want to experience.

Even the nonlinear writing with no connection is a familiar format when you think about it. Honestly, can you remember any English lit textbook that didn’t fit that bill? Stories, essays, poems, and bits of script, all smashed together with some study guides. I don’t know about you, but my classmates and I often giggled at just how disconnected the samples could be at times.

At any rate, there you go. Media comes in three primary flavors: text, audio, and video. Text comes in a variety of flavors: linear, nonlinear with some connection, nonlinear with no connection. Over the next couple of posts, we’ll see if audio and visual also come in different varieties.


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