Outlining the Proposal

I am still doing research based on that larger chapter-text where virtually every chapter feels relevant to what I am writing. That being said, I outlined July as my month to get started on my proposal so I can be prepared toward the end of August to present it to my chair. So… yeah, I did a very loose outline of my proposal today. Before I dive into that, however, I’d like to share my notes on writing a proposal from a thesis workshop thrown by the Literature and Writing Studies department. Once done with that, I’ll go into a little more detail about the proposal itself.

Because I am doing a creative thesis, my requirements are less research-driven than that of a research-based thesis. Of course, I expect you’re wondering why I am stressed so much about my own research in that case. My answer is simple; I am a crazy person who feels I need to justify my decision to run with a creative thesis. It is just how I am wired.

Anyway, here is what I wrote down about the aims of a proposal for a creative thesis:

  • Creative
    • Describe the basics of the project (project) (A)
    • Situating your project in contemporary literary production (approach) (B)
      • What am I doing and how does it fit in current writing? Creative schools
    • Place your project in a critical context (significance) (C)
      • Broadens back out to a larger cultural context
  • The overview is the abstract of the piece
    • Start with something provisional (include the A, B, and Cs)
    • Also include what you believe you are adding to the conversation, why your are unique
      • Inspiration and anti-inspiration

So, from what I had gathered at that presentation, I have three primary goals in the proposal (those A, B, Cs, if you will). First, I need to actually describe what the hell my project is. My interpretation is that I need to explain the concept in the simplest, most direct terms possible. I really need to boil down what I want to do to the basics. From there, my second goal is to discuss my approach. I need to explore how my project fits in with current creative efforts and genres. That means I need to explore the work that is going on right now, related to my chosen genres, as well as understand how these genres have developed. In this case, I am thinking a lot about tropes and how these genre tropes have developed and continued to be used over time. Lastly, my third goal is to place my work in a larger context. This is the trickier thing to think about, but from what my interpretation is, I need to explore how my work connects to broader cultural concerns. Once those three goals are met, from there I need to include my inspiration and anti-inspiration. You’ll see what I mean in my (very) rough outline.

So, here is my current (very) rough outline of my project, including the goals and inspiration/anti-inspiration:

  • Project Basics
    • My intent is to develop interactive, episodic Lovecraftian horror fiction where reader influence on a large scale drives the trajectory and resolution of the narrative.
  • Approach
    • Current discourse on Interactive Fiction; how technology is affecting IF
    • Game theory; particular to game theory when it comes to narrative
    • Lovecraftian horror; problematic elements and influences
    • Contemporary horror fiction; current anxieties manifest in modern horror narrative
  • Significance
    • Smartphone app culture; stories on the go; “events” and user engagement
    • Viewer/reader driven writing; larger idea of influential fandom
    • Horror as an intersectional genre
  • Inspiration/Anti-inspiration
    • Lovecraft as inspiration and anti-inspiration; Lovecraftian horror (larger genre, emphasis on Eternal Darkness); choose your own adventures; The Shining; David Lynch; Edgar Allan Poe; visual novels, general IF

As you can see, I love bullet points and semi-colons. However, looking past that, you can also see that I approach these goals as a checklist with multiple smaller goals within. Technically, I should have the inspiration/anti-inspiration bullets nested into the larger idea of significance, based on the outline I developed from that presentation, but I am a rebel.

With my project basics, I tried to boil down my idea into a single sentence pitch, almost like a larger, guiding thesis statement for the entirety of the proposal. I feel confident that I could rattle off this sentence to someone and they could easily understand just what the hell I am attempting with my thesis. Granted, it does include some specific points that may not be “common” knowledge; how many people do I know who understand just what “Lovecraftian” horror actually is? I need to emphasize the Lovecraftian element of the horror I am writing, however, as that is what I am particularly into. Yes, I am writing horror, but I am writing a specific type of horror, necessitating the specific detail in the “thesis” sentence.

Under the “approach,” I have four overarching concerns. I need to explore current discourse on Interactive Fiction including the origin, development, and current variety of IF. I also need to look at game theory since one of my biggest horror influences is a video game, and I want to capture and utilize elements of that game’s design. I also need to define, explore, and critique Lovecraftian horror as it is a fascinating genre, yet has its problematic elements and history. Lastly, I want to look at contemporary horror and how current issues are explored, as I would like for my project to feel modern and explore modern concerns, to the best of my capacity.

Significance, for me, was the hardest section to outline. I don’t really believe in myself, so thinking about my project could have any form of significance kind of threw me. I found it hard, at first, to wrap my head around this. Then, however, I thought closely about the kind of work I am up to and my reason for even tackling this project for my thesis in the first place.

If you’ve ever read any of my work outside this blog, such as my comics or fiction, you’ll notice I experiment with a lot of literary models. In particular, I’ve been obsessed with serialized storytelling these past few years to the degree that I have several personal projects dealing with serialized storytelling, which I will probably mention another time. My interest in serialized storytelling often intersects with my interest in technology, and how to use both to find new models of storytelling. Once I really considered those origins of my thesis, I was able to crack the whole sticky issue of significance.

One thing I want to explore regarding significance is the nature of our app-based culture of dedicated applications catering to specific needs. Something appeals to me about a story that can be executed in a serialized manner on a smartphone app, particularly allowing for user interaction. Another thing I want to explore is the phenomena of fandom influence on narratives. Viewers and readers have more power in shaping the stories/experiences they love than they have even had in the history of popular culture. In many cases, fandom can have a profound impact on how a narrative unfolds. As such, I am wanting to the explore the idea of massively multiplayer stories and the potential of groups within the larger narrative player-base. This, of course, is something that would require a larger study, but I at least want to lay out the concepts to be explored later.

Another issue, regarding this concept of significance, is something I’ve been very observant off, being a horror fan. Many horror stories are overwhelmingly white. I want to see horror become more intersectional. As such, my project will be driven very much by people of color in an attempt to construct a horror story that is universal and not limited in perspective. There lies a challenge, however, for I am a white, CIS-gendered male. The experiences of people of color are not my own, nor are the experiences of people with non-binary gender identities. In an effort to create an intersectional horror story without pandering, I must be cautious. My interest here, in particular, is driven by my distaste for the personal views of H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most inspirational and problematic figures in horror literature. It is undeniable that he had contributed a great deal to horror and pulp literature and that his writing influences writers into the modern day. The fact there is a Lovecraftian genre of horror is a testament to his literary impact. Yet, his widely acknowledged racism cannot be understated. Lovecraft’s own writings are rife with problematic views that, I feel, drag down the few positive qualities of hist writing. I use the qualifier “few,” here because I am of the opinion that H.P. Lovecraft’s writing was not very good. His sesquipedalian and anglophile tendencies in his writing make many of his works a slog to read through. Even “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” one of his best stories, I feel, is still unpleasant to actually read, not due to the content, but rather his choices as a writer. Yet, despite all of this, I still admire a great deal of his work and cannot undersell how important he is to horror fiction in the 20th century. To use the parlance of our times, he’s my problematic fave. Of course, another issue with Lovecraft that I want to get to in my project is that there are stories that are in his mode that is simply better than what he himself did, and ultimately elevated the idea of Lovecraftian horror. Of course, that is not to say that he invented the genre so much as put a name to it (“weird fiction“) and established many of the tropes which have defined the genre since. And when I say there were authors who did “Lovecraft” better than ol’ Howard Phillips himself, I mean that quite literally, though I am sure a lot of this claim is personally motivated by my own favorite weird fictions. It’ll be important to lay out my case plainly.

Inspiration/Anti-inspiration, obviously enough will be me coping with my hang ups regarding H.P. Lovecraft. Beyond that, however, I have laid out a few texts that I find important to share and that are fundamental to the development of the story I wish to tell. Among what I have listed is Lovecraftian horror, meaning the larger genre beyond Lovecraft, IE. weird fiction and cosmicism. Of course, I will need to bring up my absolute, number one influence and choice for the greatest piece of weird fiction of all time: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. I’ll be talking a lot about this Gamecube game in some future posts. Of course, I will also need to discuss choose your own adventures which are sort of the heart of IF as a whole. I will also talk a great deal about the Stanley Kubric film adaptation of The Shining, which, for my money, is the most perfectly crafted horror film of all time and is a fantastic resource on how to turn a location into a character. I will also speak a great deal on David Lynch who is a modern day master of weird fiction in film. Naturally, one cannot mention Lovecraft without mentioning Edgar Allan Poe. Lastly, I would like to explore visual novels, the format I am interested in for my project, and how they connect to general ideas concerning IF.

Anyway, that’s about that. What do you think, sirs?


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