Plots in ambient video

I am in Seattle for Decibel Festival, an “international festival of electronic music performance, visual art and new media.” No surprise that I love electronic music as it seems to go hand in hand with science fiction.

Brock Van WeyLast night we went to an ambient, experimental electronica showcase. The musicians were paired with video artists, who projected in the background while the music unfolded.

I’ve not seen that much ambient video, but what really struck me last night was how strong the human urge (or at least my urge!) is to make sense of images, to create a narrative. I’d have been completely content to nurse my drink and let the music wash over me, but the ambient video was distracting. Who is that woman? Why is she writhing around on the floor? Wait, is that her now, but all red and pixelated? Is that her giant hand? Is she okay?

The next video artist featured spacey cloud images that made me feel like I was flying towards something…always moving forward…never arriving. When will the sun rise? When will we get to the space station? Where was my video climax? I didn’t get one and left frustrated.

I’ve been working on Six Book One, and the ambient videos served as an important warning to me: if I don’t provide a good, solid plot and a compelling story, the readers are going to use the sentences I give them to create one of their own. And, chances are, their story won’t have the same ending as mine. Not to be overly trite, but as an author I want to be sure we are all, literally, on the same page. If I don’t keep a tight hold on the plot and the reader’s expectations, we will all leave frustrated.

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