An enhanced path narrative shape is one in which the story is basically sequential, but each screen of material offers an opportunity to enrich the audience's experience of it. It is sometimes also referred to as an annotative structure or advanced footnoting*.
Two particularly good examples of enhanced path narratives are the CD-ROMs Just Grandma and Me [May94] and The Complete Maus [Spi94]. Just Grandma and Me is based on a picture book written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer. As each "page" of the story is displayed on the screen the printed words are read out. Now the audience could choose just to go from page to page and read the story through as it is. However, a much more rewarding strategy would be to start clicking on many of the visual elements of the page after the reading has ended. In this way the audience learns a little more about the characters of Little Critter, his grandmother and what living in his world is like. For upon clicking objects in a scene, the audience is presented with short dramatic vignettes.
The Complete Maus offers at its core the two graphic novels that comprise the whole story of Maus. The graphic novels stand on their own and have even won a Pulitzer Prize. What the CD-ROM offers is an opportunity for the audience to hear the corresponding interviews Art Spiegelman had with his father to develop this story, his historical research, preliminary sketches he did for each page, plus other items which went into creating Maus. So at each page of the comic, the audience can decide to click on an icon to receive any part of this additional information. None of this is needed to improve the work, but it certainly expands the audience's understanding of what it was like to create it and who the people were behind it, thus providing a parallel and integral narrative of equal profundity.
Any of these additional elements in either CD-ROM could be automatically presented upon each new scene appearing. However, in giving that choice to the audience they have a greater sense of involvement, an important distinction from a traditional piece of literature.
Copyright © 1996, 1998, 1999 Katherine Phelps