A few weeks back I got excited by the Dave Morris‘ interactive take on Frankenstein. What struck me as significant was that, while I had been expecting something similar to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, what he had done was far more subtle. You can read my thoughts on this here, but overall I was struck with a new sense of potential about branching fiction.
And guess what? A writer-facing version of the tech has been placed online by inklestudios of Cambridge. It’s still in beta, but it allows anyone to write and share similar interactive fiction. You can find it here: http://writer.inklestudios.com/
So what’s it like? Well, first impressions are very good. There’s a bunch of tutorials which take you through how the system works and constantly challenges you to experiment with it. These tutorials make it seem pretty simple and useable. There’s no conditional logic or tracking variables – yet – and there’s no way to export your story as a stand alone .epub3 file, but all in all it’s a pretty unexpected and wonderful little gift from the Internets.
Of course, putting this online makes complete sense. If branching fiction is to move away from the quest-based ‘adventure’ model to the more interesting things that Frankenstein hinted at, then giving writers the ability to play around with the form and see what they come up with is a necessary step.
What surprised me most was more what it wasn’t. I expected something with a top-down, flow chart structure, rather than the ‘here’s a blank page, start at the top’ approach. This may be more a quirk of my approach to writing, or a side-effect of having a background in computers. For my own fiction I tend to write in Scrivener, which matches my way of thinking – I think in structure and I tend to ‘build’ stories rather than let them flow out. For most writers, however, I suspect this would be a far more comfortable approach.
But the big question is, what’s it like to actually write branching fiction in? And the only way to find that out is to roll up your sleeves and write something. So, that is what I will do.
I’m not entirely sure when I’ll do that, admittedly, but do it I shall. Wish me luck!