Slice of Life (Day Eight): Designing Interactive Fiction Story Trees

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last week, I wrote about my students reading and mapping out Interactive Fiction novels (Make-Your-Own-Ending is another term for the books), and now they have flipped and are becoming the writers of Interactive Fiction. We use Google Sites and the power of Hyperlinks to move the reader through the story. In fact, I did an entire mini-lesson yesterday about the innovative power of Hyperlinks, which are the digital architecture of the Internet.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

First, though, is task of the creating of Story Trees and Decision Branches where choices will become part of the story. Yesterday, many students were finishing their Story Trees up, and talking about what is going to happen at different branches.

The project is called A Mystery of Ruins, and the theme of the stories are about an archeological dig or an explorer coming across the remains of a lost civilization or culture. They have to write in second person narrative point of view, use good descriptive writing, have at least five to seven branch points and three different endings, and no violence or death.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

What I love seeing in the development of the Story Trees is the thinking out loud, and the connecting of story points, and how the narrative will be weaving this way and that way, and how a writer plans for the reader to be in charge of the story.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

This is a very different kind of writing for my students, and many are deeply involved in their narratives, and are eager to get writing as soon as class starts each day. That is always a good thing.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

Peace (branches here and there),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day One): Unexpected Turns in the Story

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

You know that moment when you introduce an entirely new concept to your students, and even as you are watching their eyes take in the new information, you can see the wheels turning in their heads as they process it all? That was me and that was them, yesterday, as I began a mini-unit around Interactive Fiction (sometimes known as Choose Your Own Ending stories).

We began with a discussion about its basic elements — reader in charge of story, multiple narrative paths, use of second person narrative point of view, story maps, etc.)

Story Branches of Interactive Fiction

And then I read a book out loud called The Green Slime, allowing the entire classroom to act as “reader,” making “choices” along the way about where the story should go. Funny, each of my four classes took four different narrative routes, so each time I read the story, it was different experience for me.

I mapped out the different “branches” of the story as I read, showing them a visual of where we had been, and making note that they would be doing this kind of mapping, too, but from the writing standpoint, with every possible choice for the reader made visible.

Oh, they were pretty excited. Only a few had ever even seen these kinds of books, although some of my gamer’s make quick connections to the ways that video games use the same techniques. In the next days, we will be doing some writing and then some deeper reading and mapping of these books, and then move into a larger project using Google Slides as a launching point for Interactive Fiction, where hyperlinks become the way a reader “jumps” through the decision trees.

Peace (active and interactive),
Kevin

TIE Proposal: Making Interactive Fiction

I am pitching this idea on Interactive Fiction Writing at the Technology in Education Conference in Western Massachusetts as part of the “unconference” part of the, eh, conference today. So, if my ideas gets accepted, you are probably here. If not accepted, you are still here. Welcome. Now, how about making a playable story?

There are many posts here about Interactive Fiction and digital writing, if you are interested.

Peace (in every direction),
Kevin

 

#NetNarr: Neil Stephenson’s Illustrated Primer of Interactive Wonder

I admit, I can’t quite remember where I came across a recent reference to A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer: a Propædeutic Enchiridion, the imaginary book at the center of Neil Stephenson’s novel, The Diamond Age. But I found myself diving into Wikipedia to refresh my memory because it seems like the book might connect somehow to the Networked Narratives digital storytelling course about to start up with Mia Zamora and Alan Levine (see his open invite here).

from https://hughsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/hugh-reviews-diamond-age-by-neal-stephenson/

Hugh’s Reviews — https://hughsreviews.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/hugh-reviews-diamond-age-by-neal-stephenson/

 

The Illustrated Primer is one of Stephenson’s vision of the future of books and texts that adapt to the reader, changing to meet the needs of the life of the reader in a society of stratus, status and privilege. It has been years since I read The Diamond Age, so I don’t rightly remember all of the plot or the role of the primer itself.

Still (I did the bold of text here):

The Primer is intended to steer its reader intellectually toward a more interesting life, as defined by “Equity Lord” Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw, and growing up to be an effective member of society. The most important quality to achieving an “interesting life” is deemed to be a subversive attitude towards the status quo. The Primer is designed to react to its owners’ environment and teach them what they need to know to survive and develop.Wikipedia

It occurs to me that one of the themes that Mia has talked about when designing the NetNarr course has been the idea of our “civic imagination,” which I intend to dive into more thoroughly in the coming weeks. As I understand it, the concept of civic imagination is meant to provide us with a way to transform our stories into action.

In The Diamond Age, this theme also seems to run through the story, but in a darker way.

Although The Diamond Age explores the role of technology and personal relationships in child development, its deeper and darker themes also probe the relative values of cultures (which Stephenson explores in his other novels as well) and the shortcomings in communication between them. — from Steampunk Wiki

I suspect the course itself — open to anyone, although there is a university component that will be playing/learning along — will explore the ways in which literature and interactive fiction is both the source of agency for us, as writers and readers, and a source of concern of the loss of agency, via technology advancements. Someone is bound to go down the dark path of exploration, I hope, and not leave the course to all of the techno-evangelists (as I often am) viewing the world through rosy glasses.

Peace (it’s written in my primer),
Kevin

 

Interact: A Q from a Past S


flickr photo shared by monojussi under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I received this email the other day from a past student. They were in one of the first classes I ever used Twine with, as we were crafting interactive fiction stories as a writing activity. Years later, I guess that experience still sticks.

Dear Mr. Hodgson,

               Hi, how are you? I need a refresher on how to operate the Twine program for my science project. Is their any written form of instructions to operate the system that I could have a copy of? Or any other ideas to help me with my project will be fine. Thank you for time, I look forward to hear from you.
Sincerely,
(Student)

I was so happy to hear from this student because I last saw them in the high school theater production but I was also very happy that they were asking about how to use something we did in sixth grade for a high school project. That’s pretty cool, eh?

I sent this email, and a few others have gone back and forth in the last few days between us.

Hi (Student)
It’s great to hear from you.
Twine has a new version out, called Twine 2. It’s more web browser-based and more stable, I think.
For the older version of Twine, which was a software download, which we used in class, I always went to this site for help and instructions
We have begun using Google Slides and hyperlinks that jump from slide to slide as our main tool for Interactive Stories. It’s been pretty effective. You can do it right in your school Google account.
Inkewriter is another online tool
I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to play your project!
Sincerely,
Mr. Hodgson

I really do hope they sent me their project to play.

Peace (interact),
Kevin

Interactive Historical Fiction: Play/Read Student Projects

I’ve been writing about our Interactive Fiction Project for Digital Writing Month, and most of my students are now done or nearly finished. Here are a few of their stories that you can “play/read” to get a sense of what we have been up in the past 10 days or so. We were working on these stories in conjunction to lessons around Early Civilizations in the Social Studies class.

Storm by Elizabeth

Ancient People by Wil

Early Humans by Sara

Neanderthal by Ryan

The Wait by Ella

Peace (in your path),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Interactive Fiction 3: How to Use Twine 2

I’ve been writing about my Interactive Fiction project with my sixth graders these past few days (and I will try to share a few projects tomorrow) as we use Google Slides, but I also wanted to share out a quick tutorial on using the online version of Twine for making Interactive Stories. This is all part of Digital Writing Month, too.

Twine is a freeware program but there is now a beta version that works right in your browser. It allows you to create “choices” and branches, and it is quite interesting to use. The main downside of this kind of story creation is the hosting of the final file, as Twine itself is not a story hosting service. Also, know that this web-based version of Twine is still in development.

This part of my transmedia story from last week is an example of what Twine looks like. This piece by my friend, Anna, is what the older version of Twine looks like.

First, go to Twine 2

Then:

Twine Tutorial 1

Twine Tutorial 2

Twine Tutorial 3

Twine Tutorial 4

Twine Tutorial 5

Twine Tutorial 6

Twine Tutorial 7

Twine Tutorial 8

Peace (in the twining of the tales),
Kevin

#Digiwrimo Interactive Fiction 2: Screenshot Tutorials

I’ve been trying to create resources for the various digital writing pieces I am doing, in order to help me explain better to my students how to use technology and also, to encourage you to give it a try.

Here, I am trying to show how we use Google Slides (or Powerpoint or Keynote or other presentation software) to create Interactive Fiction stories, or Make Your Own Ending narratives. My students are working on their own Interactive Historical Fiction Stories right now.

These are the basics for using Slides to do this:

Interactive Fiction1

Interactive Fiction2

Interactive Fiction3

Interactive Fiction4

 

Peace (in the explain),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Interactive Fiction 1: Making a Playable Story

Story Map The Bike

I’ve been doing my best to bring elements of Digital Writing Month into my sixth grade classroom. We worked on Sound Stories and with images earlier in the month, and now, during this theme of “transmedia,” I have my students working on Interactive Fiction pieces. Interactive fiction is a designed story/game in which the reader is given choices to follow, and every choice branches off into another aspect of the story.

I’ve done these before with Twine, but the freeware didn’t always play nicely with our computers, although the new beta Twine 2.0 as online experience might be worth another look, and hosting the final products has become problematic now that Google Drive has changed the way public folders are set up. Here is a map for a Twine 2 story I did the other day for Digiwrimo:

Twine map

So, with my push this year around digital portfolios within Google Apps for Education, I am teaching my students how to use hyperlinks within a Google Slides project to create Interactive Fiction.

Using Google Slides for this style of writing is not perfect, but it works, and along with creating a non-traditional writing experience, it gives me a chance to teach them more about design and hyperlinks within presentation formats for the purpose of storytelling.

My students are writing historical interactive fiction, as I am connecting our project with work on early civilizations being done in our Social Studies class. Students are writing in second person narrative point of view, of an early human, surviving (or not) in the Ancient World, using sensory details and descriptive writing.

Yes, my students love this Interactive Fiction writing project, although most have never read the Make Your Own Ending stories (I have a class set that we read and talk about) and they are so deeply enmeshed in the writing experience right now. And yes, it is a very complicated writing endeavor. You have to plan for multiple story-lines in a single story experience, and let the reader “play the story,” as I have been saying each day.

Here are a few of their “story maps” — which I require to be done before they even touch a computer.

Interactive fiction maps

I’ll be sharing a bit over the next few days …. including a screenshot tutorial on how you might do similar stories in Google Slides. If you want a taste of what I am talking about, this is an Interactive Fiction piece that I wrote last year as a mentor text for my students (designed more as a mystery story, not historical fiction, which is what we are doing this year).

Come, play my story.

Peace (in the interactive),
Kevin

More Tinkering with Twine

Twining Around

Over at CLMOOC, some folks are playing with Twine this week for Interactive Fiction as game design. That brought me back onto Twine to play around with it a bit, too. Twine is a bit of a learning curve, but not too difficult.

Check out my story

Peace (in the twisting and turning of the twine),
Kevin