Interactive Fiction Experiment: A Rvl Story Cube

Interactive Fiction storystarts
I saw someone in my RSS feed share a link for this beta site — Rvl — that allows you to create virtual-cube-shaped presentations, and I wondered if it might work for interactive fiction. You have to envision the project as a cube that has sides up, down and to the right when creating (although you can go left to view). It does work, somewhat, but the inability to see a master plan, or concept map, of the various slides in orbit around the virtual cube made the writing of a story quite tricky. I had to make sure the narrative folded back in on itself a number of times (and there may still be some potholes in the story as a result. Sorry.)

You can access the story directly here, too. Use your arrow keys on the keyboard to toggle around, or you can mouse-click it, too. Let me know what you think …

Peace (cubed),
Kevin

 

A Make-Your-Own-Ending/ Interactive Fiction Writing Activity

I used the concept of Make-Your-Own-Ending (which we are studying right now) for a writing prompt yesterday that was a huge hit with the students. We’ve been talking about these stories (the use of second person narrative, the branches of the stories, etc.) for a week now, and have had some really interesting discussions about the set-up of these books.

I had created the template below to help with the writing activity. The idea here is that one person starts a story and creates two choices. We then randomly distributed the papers throughout the classroom, and someone else continued the story, adding two more choices for a third reader. The third reader then added two possible branches of the story, before the original writer got their own story back and wrote the final sentence or two. (The whole activity took about 30 minutes).

There was great excitement in the room. Everyone wanted to be creative, but they also were trying to keep an eye on what others were doing to their stories. We then spent about 15 minutes sharing the final stories out, to great laughter and entertainment. As we move into the writing of a larger make-your-own-ending story next week (we’re going to be using the Twine software, with the story theme of an archeologist/explorer in some ancient ruins), this activity gave them time to play with the concept and think about the idea of story branches.

I also began using the term “interactive fiction” for the first time, showing how the reader is as involved as the writer in making choices about the direction of the story. We’ve already done enough groundwork on the concept that they understood the concept well enough.

Make Adventure Story Template by KevinHodgson

I’ll try to share out some of the work tomorrow.

Peace (in the branch),
Kevin

Mapping Out Choose-Your-Ending Novels

The excitement around using Choose Your Own Ending novels in two of my classes continues (and some complaints from the other classes as to when they will get a chance to read them, too). Yesterday, many students began their second (or third) book, and I had them working in small groups to begin mapping out the storylines in one of their books. It was an interesting process, with lots of discussions and page-flipping. This lesson is to geared towards having them get a real sense of how the books were written, so that when they start writing their own next week, it will be easier to jump into.

Check out some of their maps:
Story Map3

story map2

Story Map

 

Peace (along the branches),
Kevin

The Silence of a Snow Day: A Tapestry Story

(Note: I wrote the story in this post during last snow day. Today, we have yet another, reminding me that I never posted this one. — Kevin)
Tapestry story
During a Snow Day when I was home but my wife and kids were not (I work in another district), I explored this story site called Tapestry, and created this story. The site works by advancing the story along with a click of the screen (or a tap if you use the App). There’s a certain beauty to having words unfold like that (although you can’t go back once you’ve started, unless you begin from the beginning).

Peace (in stories slowly unfolding),
Kevin

 

 

Interactive Texts in a Digital Age

As I wrap up my exploration of interactive fiction, I remembered a presentation I did a few years ago about using mentor texts for digital writing. One element of that was how I helped my students write Make Your Own Adventure stories with a wiki. So, I edited down that presentation, added a few videos, and want to share it out here. I’m thinking there could be a lot of more I could add to it, but maybe I will do that at some later time.

Peace (in the paths),
Kevin

 

Interactive Story App Review: Infinite Canvas

I am loving that so many visitors here at my blog are leaving comments and suggestions as I explore interactive fiction. Yesterday, Sally suggested I check out Infinite Canvas, an app for the iPad that is built around the concept of an expandable story map, which Scott McCloud has touted as one of the more interesting and creative elements of comics. I did spend some time yesterday, with Infinite Canvas, and I liked it, although I think there is a bit of a steep climb for beginners.

The app reminded me of something I had once thought of in relation to Prezi. I love the canvas element of Prezi, where you can see the whole presentation from above and build it out. But I always wanted to be able to vary the paths of users of a presentation. Unfortunately, there is only one path in Prezi (as far as I can tell). Infinite Canvas addresses that by allowing a creator to set up multiple paths for exploration of images, audio, video and text. Think of it like a massive blank wall, and you are putting post-its up there, and then creating opportunities for connecting those post-its together in a myriad of ways. That’s the idea here.

The interactive part is that you could create a project with multiple paths, and let the viewer/reader/player make decisions that brings you along various paths of a story. You could even created “squares” in which slightly different elements of the same scene reconnect back with each other, sort of like alternative realities. Infinite Canvas allows you to import images and record audio narration right in the app, as well as text layers. Once I got the hang of the app, I was fine. But even with the tutorial (which is nicely done), it took me a while to get my head around what I was doing. There are a lot of tools built into the app, and it wasn’t always intuitive on where to go to do what I wanted to do. (Which might be an issue if you were to use this app with students. Or not. They might just dive in and figure it out easily enough).

And I have not yet figured out the best way to share a story from Infinite Canvas to a general audience (such as you). The app is free and you can create basic 12-frame stories (and download stories from its library), there is an upgrade of $2.99 per story to expand the tools and how to share it (with Dropbox, it seems). With the free version, you can share it to yourself via iTunes. But I think the files are in a certain format that is not universal, so I am not sure how you share it out unless the reader has the app. I need to check this out more.

Ultimately, Infinite Canvas does an interesting job of showing a different way to create a story, and it connects nicely to my inquiry around interactive fiction and technology. I appreciate that Sally suggested it.

Peace (along the canvas),
Kevin
PS — here are the developers, talking about the app.

 

Teaching Interactive Fiction: A Make Your Own Ending Graphic Organizer

I came across this simple writing sheet that I created two years ago when I did make-your-ending stories with my sixth graders. We actually used it twice: first, as a collaborative writing prompt, where one student began a story and then passed it along to someone else, who then branched it out and passed it, etc. Second, it became a graphic organizer for their own stories, which we later published on our wiki site. It’s nothing fancy, but it is a good starting point for this kind of branching story.

You can download the organizer or view it here.

I also found this concept/site map that I had created for other teachers to explain how to teach Make Your Own Ending stories. The map is part of a website that I had created called Threaded Adventures. It’s still a valuable resource, for me.
Make Adventure Blog Post Map

Peace (along the branch),
Kevin

 

Interactive Graphic Novel App: Meanwhile

Screenshot of Meanwhile for iOS

It all starts with the choice of a vanilla or chocolate ice cream cone, and from there, Jason Shiga’s imaginative graphic novel/interactive story app called Meanwhile moves into visual high gear, allowing the reader/player to make choices in the story branches. Most of the branches lead to disaster. One will not and the ultimate goal is to find that branch that will lead to a happy ending. All of the branches have doses of humor and visual artwork that will engage you on a variety of levels. Shiga built the app (and the app is inspired by the graphic novel of the same name, which also floored me when I reviewed it for The Graphic Classroom) around the concept of the “infinite canvas” — a concept in comics that forces the reader and writer to “think big” by expanding the story beyond what can be seen and what can be experienced.

Two panels from Meanwhile

Meanwhile takes advantage of that idea (and even did so in a creative way with the book) by allows the reader/player to see various paths of the story. You literally zoom over parts of the story map as you connect with parts of the story based on the choices you make. More than once, I was thinking, what was that part of the story? as the window blew past some frames I had not yet viewed. Instead of keeping everything hidden and out of sight, you can see elements of the story map. In a lot of ways, this visual storytelling strategy is very different from the other interactive fiction stories and apps that I have been reading/playing in the past two weeks.

The story has to do with a boy, Jimmy, who stumbled into a factory of a professor, whose been creating devices that could be used to destroy the world, or not destroy the world. So, which will you choose? Your decisions are what lead you along various branches of the story in Meanwhile.

The downside is that Meanwhile is an app that costs $4.99. The upside is that Meanwhile will keep you busy for a long stretch and you will be amazed by the creativity on display. It’s an interactive fiction app that harnesses the power of graphic novels and comics in a make-your-own-adventure style of play.

Peace (in the branches),
Kevin