This blog is a catalogue of my published fiction, a collection of short stories either unpublished or available online, and a discussion of all things writing. Here you will find tales of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and everything in between. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Update 3: Playing with Twine

Twine, for those who do not know, is not just a light string or strong thread composed of two or more smaller strands or yarns twisted together, but a tool for making interactive stories. Some of the best Twine stories are actually games, with the crucial element being the addition of choice. Allowing the reader a set of options through a nonlinear, meandering storyline adds an extra layer of interactivity to the experience of reading. Suddenly, reading isn't just a passive experience of taking in necessary information, but one in which the reader's choices are a crucial part of the act of reading itself. Suddenly, the issue of agency (who is in control: the author or the reader?) is questioned, and the text itself is destabilized, no longer linear and repeatable, but nonlinear and variable.

This is why even the more literary hypertexts composed using Twine resemble games as much as stories. The common metaphors used for composition of stories, like the puzzle, the map, or even the maze, are more appropriate than ever.

As an assignment for my Introduction to Digital Humanities graduate class, I decided to adapt one of my short stories, Dark Creation, as a Twine. The reasons for this were actually quite practical. 1) I noticed that the page for the story on Indigo Rising Magazine's website is no longer active, 2) This was my first published story, and I have no problem desecrating the integrity of its supposed stability by altering the text, 3) I still think the story holds up and thought it the appropriate for Twine for its style, length, and even its message, and 4) I own the copyright.

You can read the finished product itself by clicking Here or by going to the story's page. My adaptation (and I prefer to think of it as an adaptation, even if I made it myself) is by no means perfect. I also did not take advantage of Twine's more elaborate features, such as setting up conditions and variables, but I also reasoned that these features wouldn't be appropriate for this particular story.

I didn't try anything radical, and I kept the story basically linear. It might help to read the story first if you haven't already, but I will provide here the guidelines I followed in adapting "Dark Creation," and what I was trying to accomplish creatively.

The links start off as a set of regressions that the reader could choose to explore if they are so interested. The paths do fork, but always arrive back at the correct (and only) storyline. Things do get interesting as the story progresses, though. I play around with rhythm and the choice of how much or how little text to display on the screen at once. For example, do the words, "That is why I have come to you" not mean more when displayed alone?" I tried to take advantage of this relatively simple constraint. Most significantly, while the links start off as regressions (mere options the narrator/protagonist was courteous enough to provide), eventually they become a way for the narrator to attempt to hide information, to suppress the details and ugly facts he would rather forget. But the story presses on, and while the narrator (self-styled "The Imposter" by the end) still includes these repressed omissions, eventually the story changes gears again, and he becomes proud of these flaws and mistakes. When this happens, there are fewer and fewer choices for the reader, as The Imposter gains confidence and becomes more sure of the way the story is supposed to go. When this happens, the story becomes even more linear, and the possibility of alternate paths disappears entirely, until by the end the rhythm is too fast, there is too little text on the screen, and the links themselves are composed of not single words anymore, but every remaining word on the screen. The nonlinear form of the hypertext thus collapses into linearity, but for The Imposter this is a positive thing. And this is how the story ends.

Now that I have veered into the territory of interpreting my own fiction, it is time for me to stop, but I hope you enjoy my Twine story. I have no prior experience with using this tool, and I'm sure there are issues that remain, perhaps even flaws in the storytelling itself, but like The Imposter, I am proud of them regardless.