Must Sentences Dance?

When I saw the title of Susan Gibb’s blog post “Must my sentences dance?” I naturally thought she meant the metaphorical injection of vigor and excitement into prose. On the contrary, though, she’s concerned about the role of the traditional text-based hypertext narrative in a field that seems increasingly dominated by the glitz of animation:

I do love the audio visual narratives that play up the graphics and motion over story, but isn’t there a place for digital text as the main vehicle of narrative? It seems that hypertext as a way of storytelling, without the added pizazz of preferably moving visuals and audio that to me at least sounds annoying when repetitiously run throughout the piece, is either a dinosaur or needs the help of much more than color and background images. And yes, sentences that sing no long mean eloquent writing.

We as digital consumers are indeed very concerned with glitz and glamor, but does that necessarily mean that we can’t do text-based narratives anymore? I don’t think it does.

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of my favorite hypertext pieces, and I try to share it with as many people as I can (read it if you haven’t). But often I’m told that such a sparse interface looks dated by today’s standards. Certainly there is a very valid argument to be made for the preservation of digital art in its original design, but I can’t help wondering if the lay person might be more drawn to the story if the interface were updated with sexy javascripted text nodes and a more Web 2.0 sidebar design. Sadly, my suspicion is that it would indeed draw more respect from readers without changing a word of the already glistening prose.

Then again, audio visuals distract us from the anxiety of making choices and closing doors. Do we really want branching narratives? Moreover, do we want those choices to be so conspicuous?

There is much to think about indeed.