The Story in the Medium: Reader Responses to Multimodal Fiction Narratives

Beyond Adaptation Conference
De Montfort University
January 2011

Click the image for a PDF of the presentation.


A novel in hard copy, book form, with numbered sequential pages, bound into paperback. A computer program with clickable links, images, sound, open to multiple nonlinear readings/viewings. How does the adaptation of a story from the conventional medium of a novel to the emerging medium of digital fiction affect the reader’s understanding and experience of narrative? This paper explores the results of a classroom-based pilot study surveying readers who were asked to examine both a print novel and its digital adaptation (or vice versa). Readers were asked to read one of two novels and their digital versions (253 by Geoff Ryman or 10:01 by Lance Olsen). Half the readers examined the print novel first, and half examined the digital novel first. After each reading, they were asked to respond to questions based on the narrative and their reactions to each reading. This paper will present the initial results and conclusions of this study, and the potential implications for authors working in multimodal fiction.

My PhD work is a practice-based exploration of multimodal storytelling, specifically in fiction – print and digital. The primary focus of this research is to examine the effects of writing fiction in multiple modes and multiple media on the author’s writing process. In my teaching, however, and in reactions from readers of the early drafts of my work, I began to notice interesting reactions to stories depending upon the medium through which they are delivered. These observations formed the basis for this study and the resulting paper.

Cite as: Skains, R. Lyle. 2011. “The Story in the Medium: Reader Responses to Multimodal Fiction Narratives.” In Beyond Adaptation, De Montfort University, Jan 2011. Leicester, UK.

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