Fiction Interactive Fiction Writing

Going Interactive

It’s thirty years ago.

I’m standing in the hallway of our apartment in Cape May and asking my dad how to program a video game. I don’t know a lot about video games, but I know that my dad works with computers and I have a notebook full of sketches showing the levels that an intrepid spaceman needs to cross to reach his home planet.

Dad smiles, but shakes his head and says that he doesn’t know how to program games, but it’s a fun idea.

I’ve wanted to create interactive stories for a long time, but I didn’t quite know how. I spent hours teaching myself QBASIC so I could create simple combinations of text and line art which would take players on an adventure through a cave or a castle. These adventures were often brief because I was hand-coding everything based on what I could glean from a Visual Basic programming guide and the built in help files on QBASIC for DOS 6.22. (That, and I now am pretty darn sure that I was dealing with unmedicated ADHD and there’s only so much that hyperfocus can do to counteract attention deficit).

When I eventually wrapped my brain around writing complete stories, I started playing with the idea of creating a more stylish and subtle version of those old text adventure games. I quickly got lost in the weeds of being a thoroughly inadequate iOS developer, ignored Twine and HTML, gave up trying to make a narrative game that wouldn’t meet my standards, and focused on just writing novels.

But I never quite gave up on the idea of interactive fiction. I like to think that stepping back and focusing on traditional narrative was part of the process of growing into a better storyteller.

And so I wrote nine novels (still editing the last one) and played a lot of role playing game, both tabletop and computer.

Now I am back at it, trying to tell stories in a more interactive way.

The story is still a work in progress, but as an interactive method of writing a story, this has been a lot of fun. I’ve struggled to keep to writing every day, but the fact that I’m back to making an effort to produce new fiction every day feels fantastic.

Most days I post about a page of new fiction and a poll with two-four options for what might happen next. After the poll has completed, I continue the story for another page or so.

And when the story is done… then… then I have plans, which I will talk more about soon.