Wednesday, March 13, 2013

a new storytelling medium

If you haven't checked them out, go watch some of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Over the past year, these video diaries have chronicled a modern version of Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride & Prejudice. Now, I understand that there are already so many different adaptations of this novel that it would take a whole wall of shelves to hold all the books, short stories, and DVDs that this story has inspired. I myself have read, watched, and enjoyed many of these adaptations. But the Lizzie Bennet Diaries project is more than just a fun modern twist on the timeless classic. It's an entirely new storytelling medium. If you like good stories in any medium (books, movies, music, theater, etc.), then this project will certainly catch your eye.

Not a lot of YouTube videos are as well made as these diaries. They're scripted, directed, edited, and there were auditions for the actors who star in them. A lot of thought has clearly gone into adapting the story for a modern audience with modern problems. Since the main issue in the original work is marring off five daughters because there's no son to inherit their father's estate, that couldn't have been easy. 

The videos are released in real time (when it was Christmas in real life, it also was in the story) and the characters in the story maintain an online presence. Lizzie, Charlotte, Lydia, Darcy, and all the other characters in the story have Twitter accounts and Tumblrs and some even take the time to pin things on Pinterest. That means that in between videos (which are posted on Mondays and Thursdays), the audience can still check in with the storyline by seeing what the characters are saying on Twitter and elsewhere online. The characters will even respond to fan's tweets about their fictional lives. Other websites are also getting into it, like this fake interview with Gigi Darcy (Georgiana). This keeps the world of the story alive in a way that hasn't been available to us before.

These are all new, innovative touches that bring the story to life for viewers, but that's not even the most interesting part (from my creative writing point of view, anyway). The most interesting twist is that these video diaries are permanent in the world of the story, so once a character finds out about their existence, they can go back and watch previous episodes. This means that when Darcy is rejected the first time - and finally finds out about Lizzie's videos - he watches them and can see everything she's said about him in her videos up to that point. That's just one example of how the nature of these videos adds dimension to the storyline.

Also, while it might narrow our perception of the story to only get Lizzie's point of view, her sisters and friends commonly appear in the videos to offer differing views to the audience. Sometimes they even make videos of their own. Lydia's character is made deeper much more impactful by her own videos chronicling her estrangement from her family as Wickham manipulates her, and we get to see some action through Gigi's "tutorial" videos during the frantic search for Wickham.  These things broaden not only our view of this fictional world, but also the scope of the characters' lives within it.

Anyway, all this is to say that you should definitely check these out. Since the book lasts a little over a year, the story is still unfolding - though it's drawing to a close. It's really exciting for me as a writer to see storytelling evolving like this. The project has really taken off on the internet, so I hope to see more stories told like this in the near future.

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