For my final project, I created a non-fiction hypertext story modeled largely after Shelley Jackson’s hypertext semi-fiction work “My Body.” My work is called “Wasabi’s Body” and tells the story about how my family ended up with a cat instead of a Christmas tree one year, and just how awesome a decision that was. Unfortunately, I’m not able to host my work and keep the media that I’d incorporated, so I’ve emailed it instead.
I had a lot of fun working on this story, and incorporating various images of my cat. He really is pretty cool. I was inspired to make my own hypertext version of “My Body” after reading Jackson’s work because it was so interesting. I’d never made a hypertext story before and it was challenging but enjoyable. Learning how to incorporate media took some trial and error, but I’ve found I learn pretty well that way (despite the extra time it takes).
My project is definitely entry-level because I didn’t use any advanced “if/then” type programming, but I wanted to keep it somewhat true to Jackson’s recipe with multiple links on one page linking back and forth to different body parts and sections of the same story. My work isn’t metafictional, like Scott Rettberg describes Jackson’s works, but it is reflexive in the ways that the images and gifs used play with the text and play off of the text. I also explored branching stories (van and cat person) that are tenuously related to the main story of how we came to adopt our cat. This felt very postmodern in its fragmentation, while still maintaining an overall theme.
The Twine platform is a new twist on a genre that’s been around a while. It embodies the E-Lit definition of “born digital” as Rettberg describes hypertext fiction: “fundamentally a text technology” (62). It also allows authors new to the genre, like myself, to explore hypertext literature in a non-threatening way that inspires creativity, and I’m glad I had a chance to try my hand at a genre that’s helped to shape such an interesting field.
I wanted this piece to tell a story but at the same time be a bit of a puzzle for the reader to solve. In coming up with the idea for this story it needed the right platform to feature it. In that regard, Twine felt like the perfect fit for what I wanted to achieve. The way that it gives the option of making a multilinear story is what drew me in. Also the capability to have things like audio, images, and be able to delay the text for dramatic effect when needed.
Twine was always the platform I wanted to work with for this story. I had worked with it once before but wanted the opportunity to work with it some more. I feel like it is a very user-friendly and one is able to do so much to further enhance the story.
I was inspired by some of the digital literature pieces such as Howling Dogs by Porpentine and First Draft of the Revolution by Liza Daly. Both of these works are stories that are click based and certain choices can determine the outcome of the story. The story by Daly specifically deals with a whole host of characters that through clicking through we learn their backstory as the story moves along. This is all done through the clever back and forth of people communicating through letters.
I think in creating a digital literature piece one needs to decide what is going to be the it factor that grabs the audience to experience this piece. In taking on this story I was at first going to take a very different approach. What actually helped me write it was finding the media for it. As I gathered audio and pictures the story started to piece itself together and manipulate into something else. Media is a big influencer in the majority of digital literature so it felt fitting that the media I chose would help me grasp what I feel like is a more layered story than my original piece.
The story is about an ordinary girl who is drawn to the unusual that is happening on this day. Although it questions if the unusual the right choice, or should she stick to her everyday routine. Will she be better off for it? This all done as strange objects and people come into her life. I wanted it to have some Alice in Wonderland vibes. The user decides the outcome as there are a few endings. And like I said before there is some bounce back if certain decisions are made, so choose wisely. Or don’t, it’s entirely up to the reader on the path that is taken.
I wanted my story to have some crazy elements but still be well grounded and easy to follow. I didn’t want the reader to get too lost searching for the deeper meaning but slowly guide them to the message.
Lastly, I hope those who click through my piece will enjoy it so much so that they might explore other digital literature pieces.
My story “The Empty Shell” tells the story of Richard Trentarion, part of a once proud family in the Holandus Republic, a family wiped off the map after The Great Betrayal, which saw the destruction of Richard’s entire family.
The story starts in the aftermath of the harrowing event, where Richard is confronted with Eric Riveris, the military officer who ordered the attack on his home. The reader is presented with three choices. Either he can kill the man outright with a gun found on the ground, he can spare Eric and head east, or he can drag Eric to where he used to live, where Richard tortures the officer. The idea I’m trying to get across is that choices do matter. Should you choose to torture or kill Eric, Richard will see multiple ghosts of his past. These were originally supposed to be completely random but I could not get random text to work in SugarCube.
The choice becomes more complex in the ending, in which there are three. The three endings admittedly end cliffhangers, especially the torture ending, which is because I plan on continuing this narrative beyond the class.
My goal with this story is to tell a character story, with elements of world building. Stories that take their time in developing and fleshing out their worlds are the stories I enjoy the most. Ideas of family and their importance in this narrative is inspired from Game of Thrones, where family is central part of the books and television show.
The realm of politics is also explored, where Richard is placed in a situation where he must choose to either side with a long time ally, or back stab them for the chance of better prospects. In this complicated decision is Richard’s friend Andrew, who is trying to sway Richard to support the Ispaden claim to the throne of Typhos. Depending on the choice you make early on will determine whether or not you find out what drives Andrew to support the Ispaden family.
There was some inspiration from PRY. Throughout the early chapters, where Richard was at his lowest point, there are many words that you can click on, which give brief snippets into Richard’s subconscious mind, and what he is thinking or feeling in that specific moment in the story. These texts are made bold, italicized, and occasionally colored red depending on context. Depending on the path you choose, will determine the prophecy you receive from the faceless ghost. The mystery I leave the reader to think about is whether or not what Richard is seeing is real, or if it is merely paranoid delusions.
I chose Twine because I love multilinear narratives, they have always been an interesting medium to explore and over the course of the semester, my fascination with them only grew stronger.
I took some inspiration from kinetic poetry like Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries in the teaser video for The Monolyth project.
To conclude the semester in my electronic iterature course, I decided to attempt to create my own piece of E-lit. My project began when I read Mark Amerika’s Grammatron as part of a class assignment and immediately began designing my project, first as a personal project and later as my class project.
The writing and non-linear structure of the story struck me as something completely unique from what I’ve experienced before. While other non-linear narratives, especially the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that I read in my youth typically depicted a branching narrative in which choices and exploration of a fictional space led to multiple outcomes, Grammatron navigated through conceptual spaces, linking pieces of prose together like a wiki site and left the user to piece together the narrative from the fragments. The fractured narrative and the juxtaposition of occultism and technology reminded me of a malfunctioning mind. As someone who has dealt with mental illness most of their life, I was inspired to tell a similar narrative by focusing on the theme of mental illness through the analogy of broken machinery. This project became as much a personal experiment in the methods of multimedia and electronic literature, as it was a way to finally express a side of myself that I couldn’t through old media alone.
Over the course of the project, I experimented with Twine to create a rhizomatic structure to the lexia/passages of the project that would allow the user to follow intuited tangents in the narration to explore the conceptual space of the story. Multi-media, hypermediacy, and remediation were all aspects I wanted to incorporate. I used glitch aesthetics and data bending to create the visuals of the project, both of which are derived from network writing. I took several of the images and imported them as raw data into programs such as Audacity, which allowed me to indirectly manipulate the data of the images for surprising effects. The audio-loop that drones in the background was the result of original music filtered through layers of analogue and digital translation: a distorted electric guitar played through an amplifier, picked up by a cellphone microphone, compressed, sent over the internet, decompressed, and finally digitally altered through a sound editor.
Furthermore, throughout the narrative, I explored network writing by trying to structuring the branching passages/lexia to draw parallels between the tangents of intrusive thoughts and the interconnectedness of the World Wide Web: as the protagonist’s mind begins to dissolve into the Monolyth computer, his thoughts connect to files and documents within the network in the same way as his uncontrollable thoughts.
Combinatory elements take place behind the scenes of the project as new passages/lexia are opened at random by Twine’s “either” macro, representing both the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of intrusive thoughts but also the anomalies and glitches that arise from complicated machinery in a network.
With digital technology, we’ve had to reconsider what art and literature can entail. We create art and literature and we create technology, but our creations also change us and how we experience the world. With new technology comes new potential for creation, not replacing but along side the old media, and we’re only beginning to scratch the potential granted us by digital technology. My goal with this project was to pay homage to the bright and growing field of electronic literature and the way it can speak to each of us.
The current version of Monolyth is hosted at the following address:
For my final project, I wasn’t entirely sure which genre of E-lit that I wanted to pursue as we have explored so many interesting types. Upon exploring various works over the semester, one work in particular that I was inspired by was heyharryheymatilda by Rachel Hulin. Hulin’s work is a perfect example of how we interact with the social networks we participate in. One of the things that really brought this to my attention was the use of the Instagram platform itself. In his book, Electronic Literature, Rettberg states that “Networks are both technological and social structures. For electronic literature, networks are both platform and material.”(152). I knew that I wanted to create a work that mimicked the type of intimate narrative that Hulin’s work achieves. I chose to create a piece of network fiction, specifically digital vernacular fiction.
I knew that I wanted to create a work that took a socially common practice, such as text messaging, as a way to highlight how we interact with one another through various social networks and how these interactions can be considered narratives.
For my piece, I chose to tell the story of two childhood friends through their text message conversations. Along with text shared back and forth between the two characters, I also include images in the same way that individuals share imagery with one another in social network spaces. By utilizing such a well known and commonly used platform to tell my story, the reader is able to easily connect with the narrative and the characters. To me, this is one of the best things about network fiction.
My creative process for writing this story was somewhat challenging. I am not a creative writer by nature, so it was important for me to make my narrative interesting. I didn’t want it to be seen as just a mundane conversation between two people. I wanted there to be relatable themes with interesting twists along the way.
After writing down all the separate texts between my two characters, I then went and found images from creative commons sources that would go along with certain moments in the story. After searching for what seemed like hours trying to find the perfect app or online software to create my text conversations, I finally settled on an app called “Fake Chat Story”. One of the reasons why I chose this app in particular was because I was able to personalize various settings such as the names of my characters as well as select avatars for each. This app also allows you to send images which was a feature that was important to tell my story. After recording each day’s conversation of the narrative, I then compiled all the video footage and imported them into Adobe AfterEffects. I was then able to merge all the separate videos into one cohesive piece. Overall, I enjoyed the entire process. I found it to be a fun and challenging journey exploring network fiction along with all the other types of electronic literature.
My Twine work, “Vivid”, is a multilinear look at the concepts of intrusive thoughts and maladaptive daydreaming. Taking heavy inspiration from Robert Coover’s work “The Babysitter”, I wanted to make a work that dips in and out of reality as a serene way to explore the topic of mental illness. I felt that this would be effective because of the often random and unpredictable tendencies of mental illness.
Maladaptive daydreams are extremely intense daydreams that can often be confused with reality by the sufferer. Combined with intrusive thoughts, involuntary thoughts that are upsetting or distressing, these maladaptive daydreams can be extremely intense and disturbing for the victim. With my work, I attempted to recreate this sensation in a written form in order to raise awareness of what living with mental illness can be like.
“Vivid” is an interactive fiction that also has some combinatory aspects at its core. The multilinear structure of this work makes it participatory, immersive, and experiential, allowing for the interactor to influence how the story progresses. However, the interactor does not have complete control, as my work also uses randomly generated story progression. These two mechanics combined allow for multiple playthroughs that each detail how mental illness is both the same and different on a daily basis.
My goal with this work was to raise awareness about mental illness by writing about a topic that everyone experiences. Everyone has had thoughts about harm to themselves or a loved one, but it can be much more intense when combined with mental illness. I wanted to create a piece that could combine both the experiences of those who suffer from mental illness and those who do not. In doing this, I aimed to make a work that everybody could understand and that created an immersive representation of mental illness that those who do not suffer from it could better understand.
Achieving a work that could explore mental illness while still being relatable and understandable to those who do not suffer from mental illness was both easy and difficult. As someone who does not suffer from this kind of mental illness, I was able to make sure that the work was easy to understand, but actually writing about the mental illness was challenging. My girlfriend, who suffers from mental illness, was a tremendous help in describing how it manifests and what kinds of maladaptive daydreams she has experienced. She was also able to make sure that the way I approached mental illness was accurate and respectful, which was extremely important to me.
The biggest challenge with this project was definitely finding a stopping point, Often the problem that writers can find with Twine and multilinear fiction is making too large of a web that eventually becomes daunting and impossible to finish. I attempted to avoid this problem, but I would love to expand this work at a later date if it seems necessary or potentially beneficial. Getting lost in a multilinear, interactive work can be an amazing experience, such as in Porpentine’s works. I wanted to create a similar experience while adding a powerful, important message to the heart of the work.
When the time came for me to start thinking about my final project, there were a couple of specific works and concept presented over the course of the class that led me to create the project that I did. Being exposed to a multitude of works that are categorized as multimedia fiction such as Cityfish by JR Carpenter and FilmText by Mark Amerika were especially inspiring to me. For me, the combination of a plethora of different media elements such as text, sound, video, imagery, and more in able to form and drive a narrative are indicative of what is possible with electronic literature that cannot be obtained with literature presented in a physical format.
Additionally, the work Pry by Samantha Gorman and Danny Cannizzaro, as well as the video components in Cityfish were influential to me. The use of digital cinema in order to drive the narrative of a story is both aesthetically enjoyable and is familiar and digestible for most viewers. Cinematographic works are an enjoyable source of entertainment for a vast amount of people across the world. Incorporating cinematic elements into works of electronic literature add visually stimulating elements to the work and often are used in harmony with other forms of media. For instance, in Pry, the reader must interact with the screen by prying or shutting the main character’s eyes. Not only do the video elements enhance the narrative of the story, but the interactive elements also allow the reader to navigate through and take control of how the story is presented to them. This is yet another aspect of electronic literature that cannot be obtained with a print medium.
In regards to the narrative componenet of my work, I’ve incorporated a selection of clips that a friend of mine and I acquired during a car ride. This was originally a test of the camera of my new phone and a gimbal that I had bought for it, yet these clips came out to be surprisingly well. I’ve edited all the clips in Adobe Premiere to alter the color of the visuals. In addition to the video elements of the work, the textual elements represent a more dark and saddening theme. When the time came to write out the story of the work, I’d decided to write about the awkward and heartbreaking experience of being in a car with a significant other in the midst of an argument/break-up. While the story is fictional, it is regarding a topic that is relatable to most everyone: the final and often hurtful final interactions we have with someone we once cared for. I hope that the relatable nature of the story both resonates and intrigues the readers of the story.
In order to navigate through the story, the reader enters the site and is instructed to play the background audio presented in the beginning. The reader is then tasked with scrolling across the page while playing each video in addition to reading the passage presented with it, repeating this until the reader reaches the end.
The construction of “Drive”, as well as my participation in the course has been both challenging and transformative, as I’ve learned a great deal about an area of literature that was previously completely foreign to me and have since been able to create my own piece of electronic literature within the sixteen weeks of taking the course.
I have to admit that I was never into poetry until I decided to take a creative writing course that involved writing poetry. Nevertheless, I became intrigued after learning poetry is about word play and using words to create sound effects by using alliteration, and assonance. During this semester I learned about kinetic and interactive poetry and how digital poetry can be use on digital platforms such as Twine. I teamed up with Joel because his knowledge of Twine is far superior than my own.
Joel and I came together and started brain storming ideas about the themes we wanted to explore. We settled on writing about human emotions, and how these emotions can cause one to feel isolated, as well as turn violent. We wanted the poems to loop, by creating an infinity cycle of birth and death, like Ouroboros. We chose certain words within poems to shake to signify violence. We knew with Twine we could create effects with words we would not able to on the printed page.
The process of coming up with poems to fit the themes we wanted was a bit of a problem. I had asked to see the poems that Joel was working on to see if I could come up with the poems we needed to help complete the infinity cycle. I noticed the word, “virtuous” and then I wrote a poem, Vindicator (in five minutes) about a violent man who was boastful and fearless in battle. I used alliteration to help create the hard “v” sound in the poem. When the poem is read aloud, reader/users can really hear the hard “v” sound effects.
I added an abstract poem about love to help complete the circle. I wanted the show the effects of love and how it could be abused and be used to destroy. The hard thing was writing a poem that could show and not tell. I also did not want the poem to beat the users over the head with what I wanted the poem to convey. I purposely did not include the word love in the poem to allow the users to wonder what force could build and destroy, as well as be abused.
Twine allowed Joel and I freedom to experiment with words and manipulate them like objects, so the users are not only reading the poems, they are also watching and interacting with the poem instead of reading stationary words. The black backdrop on Twine worked perfectly for my poem, Black Flower. It helped accentuate the poem’s theme of isolation and despair.
Tom Swiss’s Shy Boy was an inspiration to me. After reading it, I knew I could also use a digital platform to express myself through poetry. I did not want to copy Swiss’s style of kinetic poetry but wanted to do something different with interactive poetry. When I teamed up with Joel for the Twine project, I knew we could use the platform to create digital poetry. I hope the user enjoy the work that Joel and I created, because I enjoyed creating it.
**For some reason I posted this at 10pm on April 30th but it says I posted it on May 1st?**
For my final project in the class, I decided to do a collaborative piece with Elaina using Twine. Throughout this project, we thought it would be interesting if we pass a Twine file back and forth and each add something to the story. The only thing we both knew were the direction we wanted the story to go, the treasures the player could get, and where the story would ultimately end up. Since we did it this way, there are things about the project that I still haven’t discovered, and things Elaina hasn’t yet discovered either. This was an interesting way of working because it’s really strange to now know exactly what’s in your project. At the same time, it was also really exciting because one of us would play through it and message the other and be like “this was such a great idea how did you do it?”. It created a sense of excitement when you open the file for the first time after the other person worked on it.
We decided to base our Twine game off of the pieces Colossal Cave Adventure and ZORK. I did my ELD entry on CCA and Elaina did hers on ZORK, and since they were so closely related we decided it would be a good idea to implement them into our final project and work together. Not only did we heavily base our story and format off of them, but there are also multiple easter eggs such as some of the treasures you can find in our version, you can also find in CCA or ZORK. However there are also a few key differences with our version as well, such as the navigation system. In the originals you would type the commands in, but in our version since it’s on twine the navigation is through hyperlinks. Due to limitations with the Twine format we used as well (Harlowe 2.0) we weren’t able to find a way to implement an inventory system or point system the way we wanted to. It was fun to work in Twine not only because of how much we can do on it, but also because unlike these original games, we were able to see a map of our final project and users are also able to look at the cave map to see if there’s anything they missed or just for some guidance. Originally we had planned that to beat the game you had to collect all the treasures, but near the end we decided to change it to each treasure giving a unique ending if you decide to give it to granny. We decided on this because we thought it would create more of a multilinear story. It didn’t seem fair to make the ending the same no matter what choices the player made, because then what was the point of them making all of those decisions?
The biggest struggle for me with this project was definitely the cave. I mapped out most of the cave and it got really confusing making sure everything connected correctly and was going where it was supposed to. I think the final version ended up having almost 40 different rooms just in the cave. This was also my first time completing a Twine of this size, so it was also really interesting to plan out all the different paths the character could take, what would determine each kind of ending they could get, and what big decisions should we have the player make that will affect their entire gameplay. My favorite part was being able to create all of the sassy and pithy things that the narrator of the story says, and being able to play through the final completed version of the game was also really cool. Colossal Cave Adventure is arguably one of the most important pieces of electronic literature, so it was really cool to be able to create a newer version of that with our own twist, with today’s standards of technology.
I wrote this piece to explore the possibilities of interactive fiction on Twine. I was trying to replicate the experience of navigating a place that you can’t physically view, like in works such as Colossal Cave Adventure or With Those We Love Alive. I feel as if this is the main draw of text based adventure, as the mystery of not being able to visually see a space encourages the user to explore the space in order to increase their understanding and gain context for the story.
Unlike Colossal Cave Adventure, I wanted to give the user reasoning for exploring the cave. In Colossal Cave Adventure, is a series of events that take place within the cave but the user ventures into the cave because the cave itself is the objective of the game. I felt that giving the user a reason to explore as well as endings that involved not venturing into the cave at all deepened the fictional world of the work.
A main component of the game is the passages that the player finds on sections of the floor of the temple. At the end of the journey, the passages combine to form a short 3 line poem. Each tunnels passages took on a certain theme, the leftmost being courage themed, the middle being knowledge themed, the right tunnel focusing on the desire for power. Writing a poem that made sense if the player chose different paths was a definite challenge, that was ultimately solved by limiting the players access to certain rooms. Creating separate adventures to go with specific poems soon became the ultimate goal.
Though the piece is very simple, it utilizes some of the unseen functions of Twine. At many points throughout the work, the dialogue of a room is changed by either the history of you being in another room or a variable noting an experience in another section of the cave. These variables gave me total control of how a user experiences the narrative because it allowed me to control the perception of the user within the story. The variables not only serve as a room history but also as a player inventory. When a player encounters a passage or an item within the work, the variable of that object within the code gets set to one and those items and passage last then follow them through the story.
I think I will come back to this piece and greatly expand it, making the temple a more perilous journey for the user and adding potential side stories within the major story. I was originally trying to make some ambient music to accompany the work, much like Porpentine does in their works. I think that music and sound paired with a some different styling in CSS would enhance the user’s level of immersion into the narrative. Another function I would love to add, would be a player journal that would allow the user to track their progress through the temple and what they currently have in their inventory. This could be made with a large amount of simple boolean functions but I think it would be a nice touch, especially if it was styled to look like the journal of a seasoned explorer.