Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The stereotype of the lonely writer scribbling away in isolation is an old and entrenched one. And for good reason. Being the vessel for great stories and characters to emerge into words takes a lot of thought, writing, and re-writing – and these are solitary activities.
But the way we entertain and inform these days is challenging this time-honored process. The author now faces a world where words are becoming a part of a heady mix of visual appeal, animation and audio that take teams to build. I’m referring mainly to apps, although harnessing the full potential of ebooks also requires a team effort, particularly when it comes to multimedia elements.
Of course I am not denying that there is still a role for the traditional book, but authors, already great storytellers, would be foolish to ignore emerging modes for storytelling. A good example of this at work is in children’s books, where words co-star (or even act as support) to the visual elements.
Related: Digital Book Awards
It Starts With a Story
As apps and, to a lesser extent, enhanced ebooks, become more widespread, authors’ skills are either being discounted as multimedia elements increase in scope and importance, leading me to wonder if authors are necessary in this brave new digital landscape.
When you factor in the programming, illustration, design, visual arts, music, narration and sound effects, writing seems like it does not constitute a huge element of app creation. But while the words are an important part of the app, they are just that – a part of it.
So is it goodbye to the stereotype of the lonely writer? Not for all authors, but many will increasingly find themselves working in a team environment, with the words they write often shaped by the requirements of the project and the constraints placed upon it by technological and design considerations.
For children’s authors, this is nothing new. They are already conscious of the way the text will sound when read aloud, and used to working with illustrators.
Other authors might be challenged by the way that apps bypass the traditional approach of reading and information in a linear fashion (as dictated by the author). But I believe empowering readers to have more control over the way they absorb and interact with the content is worth the challenge – and I think most authors like to see readers given further opportunity engage with their work.
New Modes for Storytelling
Apps present information in a way that keeps up with the changing habits of readers. The question is, how true can authors’ stay to their stories in this team environment, and does this new process of working erode the author’s role as storyteller?
I take heart in our early oral storytelling tradition, where word was passed down between generations. These stories were inevitably changed over time as their custodians brought new experiences and changing world views to the tale, and memories failed. Yet the very collaborative nature of these stories means that they are culturally sacrosanct – valuable because they have grown and been contributed to by the populace that shares them.
It’s nice to think that the collaborative nature of digital storytelling might serve as a continuation of this tradition.