I have two classes of students working hard on their own version of Choose Your Adventure format stories using the software, Twine, and they are really into it. Here is the assignment I gave them — I am trying to provide some basics for them even as I leave enough space for creativity. Since this is a pilot project (I’ve never done this particularly project with this particularly software, although I did something similar a few years ago), I am keeping an eye on how things progress and what changes I will need to make to the assignment when I do it again (later this year, with two other classes.)
As some of you know, I am in the midst of trying something new. Two of my classes of students have spent a week reading Choose Your Own Adventure novels, and now will begin writing their own. I was amazed at how many books they were reading, and I did an informal survey to gather some numbers.
I also asked them about what they were liking and disliking about the books.
The reader makes decisions about the story
There are many different ways that the stories can end
It’s entertainment reading
You can always backtrack into the story and start over at another point
The reader is a partner with the writer
The reader is a character in the story
Too many story branches end in death
It’s easy to lose your place, particularly if you want to go back
The jumping around the book can be confusing
The novels are too short
Lots of exaggeration, unrealistic adventure
Not all the endings were equally creative
Not enough choice (!)
I’ll admit — that last one threw me, but I was the recorder of the discussion here.
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 …
Yesterday, I wrote about a writing prompt that I did with my students around interactive fiction, in which they created a collaborative story that branched off into different decisions for the reader, and then writer, too. Here are a few samples of what they looked like when we were done:
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.
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.
(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)
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).
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.
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),
PS — here are the developers, talking about the app.