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Færwhile & the Multimodal Creative Practice: Composing Fiction from Analogue to Digital

R. Lyle Skains

PhD Thesis, Bangor University, 2014

This practice-led research project explores the influence of digital tools on the composition of narrative. Its purpose was to create a fictional narrative in both analogue (print) and digital forms, observing and analysing the effects of this multimodal composition on the writer’s creative practice, and on the resulting narratives. This project thus consists of both the creative artefacts and the critical exegesis that presents the analysis of the creative process and artefacts. The creative artefacts encompass the analogue novella Færwhile, included in this bound thesis as print novella, and its digital counterpart, included in the attached DVD as HTML digital fiction. The digital fiction actualises the narrative’s fabula through a variety of narrative media, including Flash fiction, blog fiction, interactive 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 or chapter. The critical thesis examines how composing multimodal texts refocuses the writer’s cognitive composition process on media-specific semiotic translations, and results in texts that depart from traditional narrative forms into anti-linear structures engaging in unnatural narration. The chapters included present my practice-led methodology; an examination of how the specific materiality of digital media affords multimodal layering of meaning; an analysis of the shift from mimetic first- and third-person narration in work preceding this research to unnatural narration and anti-linear structures in both the analogue and digital artefacts; a discussion of the implicit collaboration that arises from appropriating digital resources such as visuals, audio, and source code shared online under Creative Commons licensing; and an exploration of how knowledge and awareness of digital technologies and ergodic literature results in changes to the composition process, shifting it from a monomodal translation of imagined story to written text, to a multimodal practice engaged in multiple media even in planning stages.

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