Narratives: The True Shapeshifter

A narrative can be told in many ways giving the reader/viewer/gamer a chance to experience the story in a way that its creator intended. However, the creators of ‘choose your own adventure’ (CYOA) narratives, whether explicit or subtle, give the power of plot twists to the audience themself.

Run Lola Run represents a classic visual representation of a CYOA where you see the three outcomes of Lola’s various choices in an explicit segmented movie. The director gives us a sense of Lola’s narrative through the thrill of her immortality and regeneration. Immersion is obtained from being in the position of an omnipresent figure watching Lola repeat events; knowing what has happened before allows the audience to make choices for Lola. The narrative is so consciously developed that the choice made by the viewer coincides with the protagonist’s decisions causing deeper and deeper immersion into the narrative via a sense of camaraderie with Lola.

On the other hand, ‘The Usual Suspects’ subtly illustrates a CYOA narrative where the active power does not lie with you physically where you can click different choices such as in ‘Redshift and Portalmetal’ but it lays dormant in your vacillating thoughts during the film. You are at the mercy of viewing the story in the backseat through the eyes of Verbal and interpreting it through the lens of Kujan. This causes you to have a mental CYOA as you are constantly forming opinions and imagining what the story could be due to the director’s style of revealing bits and pieces of the story that adds to the plot. Staring from the end of the plot and filling in the puzzle pieces in random but logical orders causes the audience to become deeply entrenched in the narrative that seems to be continually in their grasp yet still constantly eluding them. This narrative was done in such an artful manner that the end takes you by such a magnitude of surprise that it is akin to turning the last page of a CYOA novel where you are expecting to die but find that you arrive at your favorite ending of all.

Narratives are true shapeshifters, spinning and weaving stories in many different ways that satisfy the reader. As evidenced by both ‘Run Lola Run’ and ‘The Usual Suspects’ the immersion of a narrative, which in my opinion is the narrative’s goal, can be done in opposing ways but allow for the same climax of emotion towards the story, from the audience. There is no correct form of narrative!

0 thoughts on “Narratives: The True Shapeshifter

  1. Interesting comparison between Run, Lola, Run and The Usual Suspects. I was surprised to read your last paragraph, through which you stated that you believed that the point of narrative is immersion. I’m not going to challenge your view, but I did want to take it one step further by asking you, if immersion is the point of narrative, as you say it is, what does it say about novels such as Lolita? Is the point to become one with the pedophilic narrator? Or, what about games such as Papers, Please? What is the point of immersion in these narratives? Or in any narratives? Why is immersion so important to narrative, and could one, in theory, have narrative without immersion?
    I suppose at this point, my questions might be impossible to answer, but I thought them interesting and will hopefully give rise to some sort of conversation or thought process throughout the rest of the semester.

    1. You have a valid point, but in my opinion, immersion is essential to the audience’s enjoyment of the narrative. Immersion is multi-faceted and can be utilized for different purposes such as in the case of the novel ‘Lolita’ and the movie ‘Prisoners’. You are not supposed to become one with the pedophilic character in Lolita or the psychotic aunt in Prisoners. More so you are meant to understand them and the mental processes people with these disorders go through.
      There are billions of people on Earth and narratives seek to tell a story; sometimes that story is not for the sake of enjoyment but to teach us about all forms of human interaction, both positive and negative. You cannot truly understand what you do not immerse yourself in. Thus immersion is essential for the message of a narrative to be fully conveyed whether deemed light or dark by society.

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