To Guard or Not to Guard

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Susan Gibb writes

One of the reasons that I have taken advantage of the guard fields is the way the narrative is laid out in four main paths. Once a link is made onto another path, if the reader should follow that path through, he’d not only be dropped into a different environment (an entirely new space that both combines and defies simultaneous existence), but he may be dropped somewhere in the middle of a story without at least some clue of what’s going on. I suppose I should allow this, but because the main characters are involved in each of the stories, I’m thinking it might be confusing until the gist of the narrative–choice been concurrent in time–be realized.

This is an interesting creative quandary. Is this about providing freedom to the reader? Providing the possibility for multiple narrative experiences within a contained world? I don’t think its about either even though I may be tipping into the pool of cliche. But the work itself should dictate.

In Paths, I felt compelled to live by the rules of the hypertext, meeting the guard and complying. Mark Bernstein provides interesting suggestions about how hypertexts can behave in given instances of narrative, but living hypertext examples should play major roles, studied as hypertexts, studied as their embodied wholes as poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. The creator has to consider the whole as well as the part and how these two massive notions can be altered by creative decisions. What has troubled me in my own writing is that each hypertext should attempt to redefine hypertext itself. What makes a hypertext a hypertext from the point of view of the author?

If Anne is linked to Jeremy, Jeremy linked to Joyce, then how is Joyce linked to Anne? I don’t like the idea of providing freedom to the reader, even though exploration may matter. I like the idea of allowing the work to decide its possible internal modifications and adjustments. It’s a massive struggle. Add that to the demands of the writing itself and you have wonderfully whopping possibilities. The link itself is an aspect of the tale, a force in the telling and reading, no matter what that link may be doing in its little space. Therefore, every hypertext, as with every poem or story, should be an opportunity to play with opportunities afforded by the link.

One response to “To Guard or Not to Guard”

  1. gibb says:

    What the hypertext environment seemed to offer the writer, or in fact, what I was both seeking in writing form and inspired by the possibility–was the ability to transcend time by moving easily through the barriers thus mimicking the free association of natural thought patterns, or stream of consciousness if you will. Since I appear to be interested in psychological realism in fiction and tend to write along that style, hypertext offered that clear advantage over straight text.

    Melding past and present–and future, or at least the unknown if not a fact–is so easily done in hypertext without flipping back earlier in the book to find something. Here’s where the writer needs to decide just what is relevant and useful, and just how much exposure need be made before continuing the story. Maybe the guard field does that for me.

    I started again to read Mark’s piece on patterns, but it was so full of information that once more I’m almost reluctant to be influenced by it before I find out what I myself want the hypertext to do. It’s likely my own aversion to direction that makes me do this, but I really want the freedom to first explore the medium without a guide.