A manifesto for digital freedom in storytelling

A manifesto for digital freedom in storytelling

"Digital publishing and the innovative energy inherent in technology empower us to rethink story and storytelling," writes the author Carol Buchanan. Based in the Flathead Valley region of northwest Montana, Buchanan writes historical fiction of the Old West. A forthright voice in our Friday #FutureChat discussions on Twitter, @CarolBuchananMT good-naturedly espouses a view of publishing's progress in the digital dynamic that's not uncommon to many indie writers. She asserts, for example, that corporate publishers "still don't have an R&D budget." And she refers to an episode of Lucille Ball's "I Love Lucy" in which Lucy and Ethel all but choke on their efforts to handle a runaway chocolate candy factory line. Our glutted book marketplace comes to mind. "Readers must become immersed in the story from beginning to end." We can all agree on that.—Porter Anderson

There’s too much grumbling among authors

Advocates of print books carp at ebooks. Self-published and traditionally published authors snipe at each other. The trade authors accuse the self-published authors of putting out tripe and crap; the self-publishing authors accuse trade authors of snobbery.

And everyone hates digital.

Okay, not everyone.

But some people seem to overlook the wonderful benefits of various publishing modes these days.

  • Readers and storytellers, alike, have freedom to publish and to read in the manner that suits them best.
  • Readers can choose among e-readers, audio devices, and paper—hardbound or paperback.
  • Authors can publish their works in all three formats.

As an author who has been traditionally published and who is now self-published, I feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory. There’s so much yummy stuff that I can’t eat it all.

As a storyteller, I’m enthralled by the possibilities in technological development for storytelling. Development is by no means done yet because the blessed nerds and geeks among us are always innovating, always improving, always tweaking "what is" to encourage it to become "what it may be."

'To burst the time-bounds of narrative'

The potential of technology may yet enable me to tell stories as I envision them, modifying the linear narrative, enhancing it, or breaking it into parallel lines. We may be able to burst the time-bounds of narrative, with this caveat: Readers must become immersed in the story from beginning to end.

Because of digital development, we have the freedom to unleash our imaginations, and think of stories not dependent on turning a page.

Digital publishing and the innovative energy inherent in technology empower us to rethink story and storytelling, in some respects to escape the bounds of the linear mode that confines us to "this happened, then that happened, then the other thing happened."

We might run stream-of-consciousness intertwined with the honking of cars as a character walks through midtown Manhattan.

We might portray an eagle’s scream as it plummets into a fast-flowing river to snatch a salmon from a grizzly and startle a hiker on a mountain.

We’re at the beginning of this freedom to tell our stories in layers of time, for example, as we can envision them, or to figure out solutions to the problem of keeping readers in the story while something explodes in another century or universe.

Although technology is not quite there for us to envision stories running seamlessly in parallel, we have the freedom to imagine them. Because we can imagine, the technology will come. Yes, it will come. And more.

Most corporate entities don’t grasp the principle that innovation such as this happens where there is freedom to put vision into practice, to try and to fail. That means it’s something that may come from visionary self-publishers and from our allies/partners like Lithomobilus. Traditional publishers don’t have an R&D budget; they are risk averse to investing in a “Skunk Works.”

That gives the rest of us more freedom to imagine and to build.

Our original call for "Five-Minute Manifestos" for The Future of the Book Business ahead of the FutureBook 2015 Conference brought out an extraordinarily robust response. You can see those manifestos here. We're going on with more of them and invite you to consider contributing. Just drop a line to Porter.Anderson@thebookseller.com

Our most recently published manifestos are:

Main image - iStockphoto: Whitefish Lake, Flathead Valley, Montana - GS Barclay