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),

  1. What an engaging project for students! I imagine the lessons they learn about planning while creating these books will stay with them as they write other pieces in the future. Fun and learning–that winning combination!

  2. I love the way you have students interacting with their characters. It’s powerful to get them thinking about how sometimes our characters make their own decisions and we have to go along, even if it’s not the original plan.

    One of my professors, Jedediah Berry, has written The Family Arcana, which is a story on a deck of cards. I think you’d be fascinated if you can come across a deck.

  3. Oh I really, really want to try this! I’m saving this to read more carefully this weekend and try things about myself. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I just ordered some new Choose Your Own Adventure books for my library, at the suggestion of a second-grade student. Your post made me smile at the connection–and reminded me about interactive slides. Need to add that into my lesson repertoire again!

  5. Kevin, I see from the images that your students are really interested in this technique. I am sure that their stories will be more inventive now that they had a chance to explore their thinking. Great idea!

  6. Choose your own adventure stories are great fun, and I enjoy seeing the story trees. When my students started writing, sticking to their plans sometimes was hard. They would discover that sometimes it didn’t make sense, or the character’s actions didn’t seem true. I hope you share later when they start. That too is an interesting experience for writers. Thanks, Kevin.

  7. As I read through the trees you provided what catches and holds my interest is the intentionality of it all. Way leading on to way and the logic that supports it!

  8. This is a highly engaging activity for kids! I love the tree-maps, they’re functional and visually cool. What a creative way to study character and fiction writing.

  9. “No violence or death.” Of course that has to be outlawed! But it made me remember a year when I had to outlaw aliens from our writing adventures.

  10. Wow – this is so cool to think about in terms of craft. They are not only thinking about their story – they are considering the impacts of the reader’s choices. I have never seen this done in a classroom. You should write more about this idea – so many kids would love the problem solving aspect of this. Thanks for sharing.

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