On Digital Story Telling #UWRF14

There’re some static aspects of writing, such as intrinsic and extrinsic elements of it. They’re so universal you can find them in any stories from ancient times to the digital age. These days, however, writers enjoy more varities of writing media and the media could be one of the most dynamic aspect in writing. It always evolves along with the advancement of civilization and technology. As bamboo paper, papyrus and lontar have turned relics of the past, we now are more accustomed to blogs and social media. These popular digital media may not change the essence of stroy telling which we may assume is as old as the human races on earth but it surely changes the way stories are told to audiences. “I don’t any platform will change story telling. The story has to be great, first and foremost. What those platforms will do only change the way we experience the
stories,”Daniel Dalton told us with confidence. He’s a British who now works as a staff writer at BuzzFeed in the UK, where he covers books, art and culture. Aside from BuzzFeed, his fiction and essays have appeared in “Cuttings”, Medium and Thought Catalog.

At The Digital Story Telling session on October 4th 2014 in Ubud Writers Readers Festival, I was sitting there to get to know what these digital authors had to say about the digital world as a channel of their literary creativity. Aside from Mr. Dalton, another speaker of the session was Angela Meyer, an Australian author based in Melbourne. She works also as an editor and literary journo. Her books are “Captives” (Inkerman & Blunt, May) and “The Great Unknown” (as editor, “Spineless Wonders”). Meanwhile, the other spaker was Elliott Bledsoe , a digital producer at Regional Arts Australia. He earns a living by working as a freelance digital producer, looking after all things that publish, play, post, tweet and trend. These three speakers were telling their own experiment with digital story telling.

Digital and print media cannot be seen as different, separate entities. They in fact are intertwined with each other, complement one another. As the digital media rise, authors can’t ignore the traditional print media. So digital media may never murder
conventional media although we have to admit that digital media definitely change how readers consume content. But still it’s much to early to claim conventional media have lost their edge completely.

Being asked on what digital platform is the best one for writers, Meyer could provide one certain answer. Rather, she answered,”Authors need to keep an eye of the kind of platform or the kind of established online journals perhaps that work for the kind of stories they want to tell.” Each of those already have its kind of audience. Maybe it takes time to find the most suitable platform to write on but eventually, as you’re experimenting with more and more digital media, you’ll find one that suits your needs and content best. Because different people often have different luck when it comes to this. Meyer recounted one of her friends published stories on his personal Facebook account, his friends like the stories a lot and all of a sudden he got a book deal out of the blue. So there’s no hard and fast rule about the best digital platform to write on. Dalton also added he experimented with Tumblr with his stories. Some of his blogs onTumblr worked but the rest just didn’t. Just experiment and you’ll find it. And listen to your instinct as a creative person.

As a digital author, we’re lucky enough to be able to unpublish or ‘recall’ the works we’ve released as soon as we find it wrong or profane or simply embarassing (though Google can still record it on their cache). Or if the works are too dear to delete, you can simply make it private or hide it from the public for your own consumption. This happens also to Meyer, who admitted she felt embarassed by her own blog posts she wrote years ago. One of them was hidden from the visitors as she thought her voice of writing at that time was far from her current idealism as a writer with a more developed voice. “I just wrote so badly… because you grow as a writer, you write all the time annd inevitably you grow, you get better and that includes like, writing tweets and stuff like that. You’re just constantly honing the way you develop your voice and your voice can be spread to all different kinds of platform.” She advised that we write on the place (digital platforms) where we feel the most connection with. “Because it speaks to you and you may also have something to offer for them (audience),”the female writer elaborated.

Still about digital platforms experiment, Dalton used John Green and his VlogBrothers campaign on YouTube as a perfect example on how an author uses online digital platforms to his advantage. From YouTube, he builds and strengthen his audience and their loyalty. He started vlogging in 2007 when no one gave it a damn. Vlogging, as Dalton put it, helped Green publish his works and build his fan base from time to time. No wonder his book sales are getting better. So that’s why writers need to actively engage in digital platforms that suits their personalty most because not all platforms work best for different authors. You have got to find one and leverage it. Authors now are challenged to go to digital world and craft their own digital story telling that could be different from the traditional methods.

On that note, Bledsoe added how digital story telling for writers on social media is seen as an advantage by publishers in Australia. The staff of this publisher told Bledsoe that they will not publish potential authors who don’t have a certain amount of following on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Dalton also told the same stories, that his friends in Sydney and London are confronted with reduction of marketing budget. “So you come to the publishers with great stories and the ability to market your stories.”

Dalton thought Tumblr is good for building fans base. He also mentioned WattPad, which is a huge digital publishing platform where people love reading fiction, so it may be good for fiction authors to market their stories there.

One thing Dalton and I were agreed on is that writers don’t have to sell hard their works. Just be genuine and interesting, that’ll be the best selling points ever. “I quickly unfollow writers who promotes his books all the time,”Dalton giggled. I do, too.

{image credit: Commons.Wikimedia.org}

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