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Interactive Fiction and Fan Reads #fanread #rwpchat

May 13, 2014

Reading fiction is generally seen as a passive activity, with the reader following a single path of the story that has been set out by the writer.  However there are opportunities for readers to take a more active role in the development of a writer’s story. This is especially true in the case of interactive fiction.

In works of interactive fiction (IF) the writer presents a story, but gives the reader the option to deviate from the thread of the narrative, or direct it in a particular path at various points along the way.

Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books and text based computer adventure games that were particularly prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s are both examples of interactive fiction. Both presented a written scenario to the reader and a method of interaction to help direct the story, based upon options within the text. For example: “You awake to find yourself in a cold, wet, dark dungeon. In the distance you hear the howl of a wolf. There is a key on the ground and exits to the east and south.” In the case of the CYOA book the reader would be directed to the next page of the story based upon the option they chose (eg Pick up key; Go east; Go west), and in the case of the text computer adventure they would type in an appropriate instruction (eg Go east) to move to the next scene.

There are many original works of interactive fiction published as CYOA or text adventures, but it is also an area that has a strong #fanread element, with writers of IF producing games based on existing books or TV programmes/films.

The Interactive Fiction Database is a large directory of published interactive fiction works, and (as well as other IFs) it includes links to #fanread games based on:

Some of these games can be played online if you want to try them out (a link generally appears on the top/right side of the page).

The IF database also lists stories created with a relatively recent online application called Twine.  Twine IFs generally present the reader with a section of the narrative, plus the option to click on links within the text to move the story along. This progression can involve the reader having to make the choice of which direction the story goes in, or it may just be used as the equivalent of a page turn at an appropriate point. The main difference between Twines and CYOA & text adventure games is that a Twine isn’t always a game, sometimes it is just a narrative, with asides and opportunities to take this story in a new direction.

An example of a Twine #fanread is Alice Falling by Matthias Conrady, based on a scene from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a great example of how a narrative can be presented creatively using Twine (including the graphic effects on the side of the web page giving a sense of falling).

As well as being able to read Twines online, Twine also allows anyone to easily create their own IF story. The software and tutorials are all available for free here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Interactive Fiction’s in general take a look at The Interactive Fiction Database – as well as listings, it also includes forums, discussions, reviews and has a very active community of IF fans.

Gary Green from Surrey Libraries


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