My Summer Vacation by Alan Bigelow
An exploration by Jeffrey Jones
My Summer Vacation aims to tell a short story through the use of sound, animation, and user interaction. The piece takes the accounts of several points of view to accumulate the story over a period of a few minutes. The basis of the story is the death of a young boy who apparently dove into shallow water and broke his neck. The reader must click on one of the many scrolling pictures to experience each viewpoint. Throughout the interactive experience, we encounter the boy’s friend, his mother, grandfather, a bystander, and a funeral attendant. Each character has his/her own dialogue, which is whispered while its text scrolls across the screen. This is accompanied by the constant sound of waves breaking on a beach.
My Summer Vacation is most successful in its use of tone to differentiate between characters. Bigelow achieves this through the careful choice of words to create classic figures that we are already familiar with. The mother says, “Where is my boy?” and describes the dinner she has prepared for him. The grandfather says, “It’s your grandpa. He’s talking to himself again.” The childhood friend warns the boy not to dive into the water. We are already familiar with the classic roles of housewives, delusional senior citizens, and fun-hampering rules such as “no diving.” This is a very short story, so the author takes advantage of readers’ preconceptions to fill any voids with assumptions.
The best use of words in this piece is, “It’s your grandpa. He’s talking to himself again.” This statement instantly created an entire scene in my mind and is the main point that made me feel taken by the story. As soon as the words are whispered, I imagined an old man visiting the location of his grandson’s death, claiming fault and asking for forgiveness while speaking towards the ocean. The statement immediately communicated emotion, and that’s what took me.
This piece is particularly valuable to me because of my interest in writing microfiction. This story is very short, yet the characters develop over the course of just a few sentences each. The author creates an intimate relationship between the reader and the characters by playing on what the reader already knows, and I plan to keep this in mind in my future microfictions.