By now the second of six digital fiction pieces on Penguin's We Tell Stories is out. Last week's story, The 21 Steps, was told on Google maps. That, I thought, worked out rather nicely. The characters were still yours to imagine, but the maps provided the setting giving the story a feeling of being a little bit film and game at the same time.
Considering what storytelling on the web might look like in the future, which is what Penguin set out to explore, that seemed right.
The second of Penguin's stories, Slice, looks even more promising. Slice is fiction for two blogs and twitter. This makes the future of storytelling point even more strongly. The story is told from several perspectives and will unfold over the next days. It also uses various formats like blog posts and fictitious lifestreams. The interesting part here is, that whereas in The 21 Steps the same path unfolds for every reader, it is (theoretically) possible to read Slice from only one perspective, only as a lifestream etc. Whether the story can indeed be read this way, remains to see.
Anyway, this fragmentation of the story is a huge challenge when telling stories on the web. One common answer is to make the whole story rather cinematic. This is often seen in games or ARGs: The plot or overarching idea can then be explained in a trailer, which helps to keep things together (see Find The Lost Ring, via Contagious, for an example). I'd love to see examples, which work out in a more subtle manner. It seems right and good that web-storytelling can learn a lot from films and games. Still I believe there must be newer and less linear ways. In the end these are stories in endless-dimensional spaces. It appears already, that Slice might show how some aspects of these rooms might connect.