Fun da mentals : Rhetorical Devices for Electronic Literature

A Plea for Connections: Links convey meaning


Experiment: On Your Own
Exchange: Share Your Creations


Student works {None yet}

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Links are navigational tools that readers click to go from an originating node to a destination node (sometimes links can go to specific portions of a destination node--anchor links in HTML work this way). Links can be from text, an image, a moving field, or a navigation structure (such as a menu).Links can visible in the text (e.g., simple underlining in HTML or different hues or fonts in Flash distinguish links from non-linked elements) or they can be invisible (e.g., the linked element does not look any different than the non-linked element).

Links do more than simply move the reader from one node to the next however. A linked word takes on more prominence within the entire piece as it leaps off the node and into the navigational functions of the node. The linked element stands out from the rest of the text. If the link is visible, then this readers see this emphasis as more than mere bolding or other font emphasis as it creates a meaning. The linked element is now a gateway to another node--the fact that it is a link in itself makes the link more important than the non-linked elements--even if the reader does not follow that link. If the link is invisible, then the link stands out when the reader has discovered its hidden attribute.

Links also provide a commentary on their destination. Readers assume that the link signifies a connection between the originating and destination node, and that the author's choice to make that particular element a link and not another word has some relevance to the connection. A mark of quality writing is how "intuitive" or right these links feel.


Links can signify a variety of relationships, including:

Links can be marked in a variety of ways. Each way of marking links influences how the links will be seen and how much emphasis the reader will place on these links.

Marking visited links and unvisited links is automatic in HTML web browsers. But many authors prefer not to have links marked as visited, so that readers can see the words again in a different context.


Create an electronic work where the origin node links to the destination node. Choose any of the origin nodes and link them to any of the destination nodes. You can even build paths through these nodes with your links.

Consider precisely what you will link to. Most electronic literature tools allow links only to a major node or a major portion of that node (such as anchor links on a node). Storyspace allows links to any part of any node (such as a phrase), but it is sometimes difficult to determine the precise word that the link is going to. Nonetheless, consider the precise word that you will link to. This thought process creates good thought patterns as you consider exactly what your link will communicate to your readers.

Consider how you will mark your links. How much will they stand out? Will they be visible or invisible? Will readers see marked or unmarked links after they have visited that destination node? Why--what will this add to your meaning?

Origin Node
Destination Node
1 Renee Nowytarger
A Our peace proclaimed by the piercing of a bat's cry.
2 Our home has not known peace in a hundred millenia. Our religions exhort us to love one another. But we cannot see this love in each other's prayers, for all our prayers are invisible, like currents under a still pond. B Our peace shattered by the piercing of a bat's cry.
3 I walk in peace as my God exhorts me to. I carry love for all, for all are human, all are precious forms of life who think, create, sleep, love, and wonder at the perfect beauty of a sparrow. As I walk, I join others, and our peace is known.
C Peace: Noun. The absence of war, conflict, hatred, and midnight raids leading to years of absence. The presence of understanding, tolerance, communication, and a child being answered by a mother.
4 We are in the market buying today's fresh-caught halibut for John's birthday. Little Joey keeps pace with me, his legs rushing fast, shouting that John would like a kite for his birthday or a new teddy bear. "Your daddy does not want a new teddy bear," I tell him. "Your daddy wants fresh fish with lemon." Joey makes a face--ewww, just as the car bomb goes off. Everything turns black. D Bear Lake, Colorado, US

Here are some examples of types of links that you can create in this exercise and my rationale for making them.

Experiment: On Your Own

Here are some ways to play with linking:


  1. Write about something in your life--an event, a puzzle that has been bothering you, an emotional time, a person, etc. for 10 minutes on paper.
  2. Highight 4 words in this main piece (using a different color for each highight makes this more distinctive)
  3. Write each of the highlighted words on a separate piece of paper. (If you use colors, you could edge each piece of paper in the same color as the highlighted word. Find some way to make these distinct papers).
  4. Put content on each of these papers. Either find an image that you can associate with the word (and its context in your original writing) or write about that word. This could be a related story, an expanded definition, a clarification, a commentary, etc.
  5. Get 4 thin strips of paper, and on each one, write the relationship between your original writing and the expanded content. What links these two pieces of content together?
  6. Arrange your main papers on a posterboard. Maybe some are farther apart in meaning or closer together--what "fits right" to you?
  7. Put the thin strips of paper between your original writing and the expanded content.
  8. Try a different arrangement. How does this inject new meaning?
  9. Are there any other links between your papers? If so, add them by writing the relationship on a thin piece of paper and connecting those papers.

Team sport

  1. Write on paper for 10 minutes on something specific that the group chooses (a banana, an image, a story, a philosophical discussion, a reaction to a political commentary, a math exercise, etc).
  2. Exchange papers.
  3. Write a response to this paper on a new sheet of paper.
  4. Put the original item that the group wrote on in the center of a poster board. (Sticky putty works best to attach a banana to a posterboard.) Then arrange your papers on the board. Discuss where they "go" --what has a spatial relationship to what. Maybe two pieces are opposite, so they go on opposite sides of the posterboard. Maybe two pieces are connected and they go on top of each other, maybe you need to tear a paper apart or copy it to use in two different places...use your imagination.
  5. Discuss types of connections are between these papersand use threads, etc to symbolize these connections.
  6. Build a story using these connections. You can add or subtract content by taking away or adding pages.

Exchange: Share Your Creations

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