When you pick up a book you know you only have to turn a few pages in order to begin to enjoy the contents. You don’t even have to engage the contents of those pages if you don’t want to: you can simply look for Chapter 1 and dig in.
If the contents are fiction, you know once you immerse yourself in the story that you will not be interrupted by authorial asides or editor’s footnotes. You will be allowed to forget about the book as a mechanism and as you embrace the contents.
When you watch a movie you expect the movie to believe in itself — unless it’s an art film whose raison d’etre is disrupting the audience’s “easy relationship with the cinema”.* Scenes play out without commentary from the director or actors, allowing the audience to believe in the world of the story. Editing, a musical score — everything is aimed at supporting the audience’s suspension of disbelief while making the medium itself transparent.
Even bonus commentary on DVD’s can do damage to an audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. While it’s interesting to hear how a movie is made — at least once — it’s also a bit of a letdown to learn that a gripping scene was the result of accident. “We only had one copy of the Magna Carta on the shoot. When the AD fell off the crane and split his head open, somebody grabbed it and used it to stanch the blood. What you see the dying wife holding in this scene is actually a place mat from a diner down the street.”
Would you ever be able to watch that scene again and truly embrace it after hearing that kind of disclosure? The most famous example of this is the scene where Indiana Jones shoots the giant swordsman in the original Raiders of the Lost Arc. The now-legendary story of how that scene came about has crippled the experience of that movie for me, both as to that scene and Indiana’s character. Even if we all know that a marionette is pulling the strings, it still helps if the strings are black and hard to see.
Blog fiction — meaning fiction that uses the internet as a medium of expression — has long suffered from problems of transparency. Not only can visitors beam themselves into a site past the home page, but the obligation of catching readers up on a dedicated story essentially demands that the author maintain a presence alongside the fictional content.
This is something most novels — even experimental novels — don’t do. If the author appears anywhere in the book, other than by name on the cover, it’s at the end, in a short note. My belief is that blog fiction must embrace this same approach. It must strive for transparency and minimize distractions and confusion for the visitor/reader/audience.
As noted in the inaugural post, I’ve put up an experimental site to demonstrate the impact of, and difficulties inherent in, achieving transparency in blog fiction. The pop-up/welcome screen you see when you enter the site is a critical component aimed at making the site transparent, and I’ll delve into that a bit more in the next post.
* A mind-blowing quote from a college professor during my film-school days. As if that easy relationship was not itself the result of endless experimentation, refinement and dedicated craft.
— Mark Barrett