Metalinear Cinematic Narrative: Theory, Process, and Tool
by Kevin Michael Brooks

Doctor of Philosophy, April 30th, 1999.


Media entertainment technology is evolving rapidly. From radio to broadcast television to cable television, from motion picture film to the promise of digital video disks, as the media evolves, so do the stories told over these media. We already share many more stories and more types of stories from many more sources than we did a decade ago. This is due in part to the development of computer technology, the globalization of computer networks, and the emerging new medium which is an amalgam of television and the internet. The storyteller will need to invent new creative processes and work with new tools which support this new medium, this new narrative form.

This thesis proposes the name Metalinear Narrative for the new narrative form. The metalinear narrative is a collection of small related story pieces designed to be arranged in many different ways, to tell many different linear stories from different points of view, with the aid of a story engine.

Agent Stories is the software tool developed as part of this research for designing and presenting metalinear cinematic narratives. Agent Stories is comprised of a set of environments for authoring pieces of stories, authoring the relationships between the many story pieces, and for designing an abstract narrative structure for sequencing those pieces. Agent Stories also provides a set of software agents called story agents, which act as the drivers of the story engine. My thesis is that a writing tool which offers the author knowledgeable feedback about narrative construction and context during the creative process is essential to the task of creating metalinear narratives of significant dimension.

Thesis Supervisor: Glorianna Davenport

Get the entire thesis in PDF form (14.5 MB).

or in bite-sized pieces of PDF:

Acknowledgements (32 KB)
Table of Contents (36 KB)
1 - Introduction (244 KB)
2 - Background and Context (312 KB)
3 - The Problem (4.1 MB)
4 - The Agent Stories System (4.9 MB)
5 - Authoring and Evaluation (88 KB)
6 - Stories (3.8 MB)
7 - Conclusion (316 KB)
Bibliography (84 KB)