So early this week, I got completely absorbed in this:
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
It's an online adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in the format of a web blog. I originally got drawn in because it was cute, clever and put together in nice, bite-sized chunks, but I soon became intrigued by the concept and format. The bulk of the story is told in summary (and often, dramatic re-enactment by the main character and whoever she can draft into donning a goofy costume element) ... in fact, until well over two-thirds of the way through the run so far, none of the key scenes in the plot occur on-camera.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed when this changed: I was absolutely fascinated by the way that the whole story could be told in summary, gossip and supposition, filtered purely through the eyes of the video blogger(s), and yet you were able to see that the truth was not necessarily what Lizzie presented. The authors also do a great job of incorporating other social media into the story, and even add a video blog from the point of view of the usually-reviled Lydia. It's really rather mesmerizing.
On the other hand, I can see why the other characters needed to be introduced. There is a point at which it becomes unsatisfying never to see them directly, especially when they so deeply impact the lives of the on-camera cast. I hope that as the project continues, however, that these guest appearances will be kept to the dramatically necessary minimum.
Interestingly, this method of storytelling recently ran into a limitation: a letter which, in Pride and Prejudice, the narrator keeps secret from the other characters. However, to show it on the video blog would be to allow the other characters (who are viewers) to learn the information ... but to not-show it would conceal it from the real audience. The video blog went the latter route, but (I think) did a great job hinting at what might be between the lines.
Of course, as a writer of fiction, I tried to think of how this might be applied in a short story. It's trickier, because fiction is (in most cases) effectively summary: a narrator - implicit or direct - relating what happened through their eyes. Much has been made of the unreliable narrator, the storyteller who is outright lying. So how do you recreate this effect in a more distilled fashion?
Here are a few ideas I came up with, of varying technology / setting assumptions. Which do you like? Do you have any others?
Told through servants' gossip
Told through emails
Told through newspaper clippings
An amnesiac having his/her circumstances explained by the other parties involved
Told as minutes of a meeting
Told as reports to a spymaster