the Unwritten, the Unknown

To start this off, I have to admit this was the first real comic book I’ve ever read. My previous exposure to comics were limited to the Dr. Who one we read in this class and a few strips in the Sunday newspaper growing up. The verdict? I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I’m still a little surprised how much I enjoyed it, and want to keep reading…

I think this book is a great example of transmedia storytelling. Not only does it contain a story within a story, but it even incorporates a few pages with images of web pages, excerpts from chat rooms, and even has pictures representing the news. Carey and Gross use these other media outlets within the book to develop the story further, and almost simulate real life. Even though they are not actually using other media outlets, they still bring it into the story, creating a transmedia storytelling effect, in that it adds depth and further insight to the whole.

In Rebecca C. Moore’s article, “All shapes of hunger: Teenagers and fan fiction,” there was a quote that really caught my attention:

“Our favorite stories are ones we want
to roll around in and not come out of for a long, long
time.”—Virginia Euwer Wolff

Although Moore uses this to explain the reason teenage fans decide to create fan fiction, I think it applies to the Unwritten as well. The quote implies that when someone loves a story, they want to immerse themselves in it, and “befriend the characters.” In the Unwritten, fans and many people all over the world seem to be immersed in Wilson Taylor’s series, thus their love for Tommy (or Tom, as he insists) Taylor stems from that. People seem to have latched onto the character of Tommy, and then to have the author’s son bear practically the same name and look, they assume the character is based off of the person. Carey seems to understand that people blur this line between stories and reality, which can happen when there is immersion into a story or a game. An example of this in the book are in the panels after Tom’s being released from the hospital and he’s trying to sneak out. A swarm of patients practically attack him, asking to be touched by him with a “little of [his] power.” These fans believe he’s the same character from the book, and want his powers, thus confusing the line between what’s only in a story and what’s real life. This idea is also expressed in McGonigal’s article, “‘This Is Not a Game’: Immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play,” in which the Cloudmaker’s wanted to solve 9/11, because their participation in an immersive alternate reality game “had profoundly affected their sense of identity and purpose, to the point that a game mentality was a natural response to real-world events.”

One aspect of this book that I found really enjoyable, is how its non-linear storytelling form made it feel like a puzzle or game. The authors provide little hints and throw in other story lines that almost force the reader to participate, because they’re trying to figure out the mysteries. In Costikyan’s article, “Games, stories, and breaking the string,” he points out that he used to think of games and stories as two separate entities, but then he expresses how they can in fact interact together, and that there are “innumerable game styles that do combine stories and gameplay successfully, in ways that evidently appeal strongly to wide audiences.” Even though I realize the Unwritten isn’t necessarily set up like a mystery novel, it certainly contains hints and clues meant to make the reader think and figure out how everything fits together in the story. In this way, the story does somewhat act as a game in a successful way.

 

Who is this dude?!

On this excerpt, for example, we see the guy who whacks Tom, and some verbal exchange that occurs between him and an unknown man. What they are discussing doesn’t make sense, because we are lacking information, or at least the background for this part of the story. I liked trying to piece things together, and attempt to solve what was going on, and then what would happen next. I think for many books this form of non-linear storytelling is important in keeping the reader’s attention and interest.

Overall, I found this reading exciting and complex. I think there are a lot of aspects of the comic that keep the story intriguing, and the way it’s presented, with different storylines and references to real world things, adds to the overall experience.

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