Exploring methodologies for non-linear story development

A Creative Writing & New Media Research Project

Research Questions

Most writing tools and story development processes are designed for writing linear narratives, whether fiction or non-fiction. To develop non-linear interactive narratives, what kinds of tools and processes does the writer ideally need? Unlike, for example, with film/tv screenwriting, there is no established modus operandi for new media writing, other than using flow charts. So do the kinds of linear tools and processes that are commonly available to writers inhibit the development of non-linear stories? Are there any near ideal tools available and if not, how can I adapt what is available to meet my story development needs?

To answer these questions I decided to process the same story idea through a variety computer applications and non-digital methods to see what effect they have on the story’s development. The primary aim of this research is to find answers to my personal needs as a writer (so for example, as an Apple Mac user, I concentrate on software for the Mac) but hopefully my findings will be of wider interest.

During the course of my investigations additional research questions emerged. Because I am presenting this critical study chronologically, I will introduce the new research questions as they occurred to me.

Stage 1: choose the story idea to develop

Tailspin (working title) is the story idea I chose to develop for my experimental research because it seemed relatively short and uncomplicated, but with a mystery at its heart, and rich with multimedia potential.

The story is about an old man, his wartime memories, and his relationship with his adult daughter and grandchildren. The central mystery is why does the old man refuse a hearing aid and treatment for his Tinnitus when it causes him such loneliness and frustration, which he takes out on his family? The solution for the reader to uncover is summed up by this statement: He hangs onto deafness for dear life.

Stage 2: research and select a range of useful software applications and other tools for non-linear writing

From my own previous writing and story development experience in other media I had an idea of what I might find useful, which helped guide my research on the internet. To support and broaden my choices I drew on my discussions with guest lecturers (particularly Margie Luesebrink and games writer, Maurice Suckling) and from my reading (see Literature Survey).

Here are the tools I selected:

Scrivener – a writing tool developed by a writer ‘to really help me get a grip on my writing, notes and research, to organise it and start putting it all together like a jigsaw.’ (Blount 2007)

VoodooPad Pro – essentially a wiki – ‘a garden for your thoughts. Plant ideas, images, lists and anything else you need to keep track of.’ (Flying Meat Inc. 2006)

OmniGraffle 4 Pro – for creating flowcharts and mindmaps – ‘produce amazing-looking diagrams that communicate information far better than words…’ (The Omni Group 2007)

Whiteboard and Post-it notes – non-digital tools, useful for brainstorming and mind mapping.

Stage 3: develop the story using the different tools

Ideally, I wanted to test the potential of each software application or method as a standalone development tool, but it would be impossible to wipe my memory clean of any story development I’d done using one tool when it came to using the next. I had to accept the inevitable cross-pollination of the development process of one tool or method on another. While attempting as much as possible to keep the processes mentally separate, I decided to look out for what’s easily done in one software or method and not in another, or how a particular feature of a tool leads me into a particular story direction.

With all this in mind I embarked on my experimental research and began the work of developing my Tailspin non-linear story.

Using the whiteboard and post-it notes

whiteboard mind-map (click to enlarge)
whiteboard mind-map (click to enlarge)

With only a broad brush idea of my Tailspin story, I decided to use the mind-mapping technique on the whiteboard to start developing it further.

I started in the centre with ‘Tinnitus – Deaf Old Man – Father/Grandad’ and worked out from there. At first I was a little hesitant – I put down the words: daughter, grandchildren, family, past (which I later erased), WWII, fighter pilots and then spitfire, which brought out ‘anger’ and ‘spits fire’ and then I was on a roll. The rest came relatively easily.

At first I felt constrained by the limited space of the whiteboard, but I soon found it focussed my thoughts and made me concentrate on the key narrative points. I noticed that the things that were leaping into my mind as links and connections were the more poetic elements rather than logical narrative connections, e.g.:

  • fighter pilots shot down – family shot down in flames;
  • killing sounds, deafening noise – deaden the noise, shouting that silences children…

I found mind-mapping a very productive way to start. It was easy to come up with ideas and associations and I was able to see connections at a glance. The structure seemed fluid and I didn’t have to worry about how to order the material into a narrative. In fact I saw a different kind of structure emerging that reminded me of a tag cloud. Also the way I drew words, lines and outlines began to suggest a rhythm and ways the material could be animated or presented kinetically. It felt good for my imagination to be fed like this at this stage. A good way to start.

Using Scrivener

I created a Scrivener Project Binder for Tailspin and began gathering my story research into it. I also started to develop the story by working with virtual index cards in the Corkboard mode, which is a technique I’m familiar with from scriptwriting (except with real index cards).

“Many writers use index cards… to work out their plot, a technique I highly recommend. You can ‘see’ the entire movie at a glance, and can experiment with various changes and explore the impact they have on the overall structure.” (Rossio 1997)

virtual index cards (click to enlarge)
virtual index cards (click to enlarge)

The index cards encouraged me to start thinking in more detail, especially about the family relationships. This led to some important insights – e.g. the daughter interpreting the father’s rejection of the hearing aid as a rejection of her (he never wanted to listen to her anyway). Although the downside was that I was sometimes tempted to go into more detail than was necessary (a temptation I often found with real index cards for screenwriting), which defeats the object of being able to see the whole story at-a-glance.

The Scrivener set up allows an easy free-flow back and forth between writing and research because it’s all in the same environment. It doesn’t feel like you’re stopping the ‘real’ writing to do more research, and if the research sparks an idea, it’s easy to jot that down on an index card and put it straight into the creative mix. Despite this, at first I found it hard to achieve the smooth flow of ideas and associations that I’d found with the whiteboard mind-map. Because it’s a computer program, the virtual index cards are arranged in an orderly sequence and this inhibited my ability to imagine the non-linear connections between them. The regimented cards seemed to be leading me down single threads, rather than opening up multiple narrative threads. Being of equal size, the cards also seemed to suggest an equal emphasis on story elements and an even pace, in contrast to the tag-cloud-like variations possible with a whiteboard mind-map. Again this inhibited my creative flow because I was continually stopping to think: is this worthy of a card of it’s own or should I add it onto another card? Or alternatively: should I split this subject into 2 or more cards?

The idea of a story-based tag cloud began to take hold and I noted that Scrivener has a keywords feature which allows you to tag index cards or files. I began to wonder if a more appropriate, non-linear way to structure ‘scenes’ or story elements could be guided by the frequency with which a tag crops up. It was an idea I’d touched on in Jess Laccetti’s Laboratory guest lecture live chat:

Christine WILKS: ‘Tagging lets us organize the Net our way.’ Do you think tagging could have a role to play in the creation as well as consumption of web lit/narratives/drama? 27-Mar-2007 14:28:40 BST

Jessica Laccetti: I think tagging might be the next step to be explored in terms of online narratives. Already searching delicious reveals narratives, who’s bookmarking what site with the same word – a story evolves, people employ the same word but mean different things. 27-Mar-2007 14:29:40 BST

New research question

It was at this point that a new research question emerged, which would inform and guide my research project from hereon in.

Can tagging/keywords be used as a guiding principle with which to structure a non-linear narrative?

So I started to explore Scrivener’s keywords feature. Not only can you apply any number of keywords to an index card or file, but you can run searches on any keyword or keyword combination. This doesn’t produce a tag cloud, but it offers a way of analysing how keywords are used, and could be very useful for thinking about a linking structure. You can also add keywords to a saved keyword search – a further way of grouping tags. I began to think of this as developing my own personal story folksonomy – or talesonomy as I decided to call it (enjoying the connection with folktales).

Once I’d developed my talesonomy idea, I felt happier working with the index cards. Their orderly arrangement no longer bothered me because I had keywords making a network of non-linear connections. Although I didn’t have a visual representation of my talesonomy, the amorphous sense of it was enough to dispel the linear straightjacket.

It occurred to me that this would be an ideal time to return to the whiteboard to organise my story elements/fragments, with reference to their keywords, into a ‘string of pearls’ structure.

‘A string of pearls architecture is a linked series of worlds structures connected by plot points or tasks that the player must accomplish to move forward in the narrative.’ (Garrand 2006, p. 290)

However I wanted to pursue my aim of testing each application or method as a standalone story development tool. So I decided to move on to testing VoodooPad next, leaving OmniGraffle until last because it felt like flowcharting would naturally be the final stage of the story development process.

Using VoodooPad Pro

I created a new VoodooPad (wiki) document, but faced with a blank white index page my mind went blank too. I wasn’t sure how to approach working in this new environment, having come straight from Scrivener where I felt very much at home. If I’d referred to my whiteboard mind-map, I may have felt more confident, but that was against my rules.

So I looked at the blank white space and thought about an opening image. It turned into an audio idea:

Deaf old man

Start with some kind of image of the deaf old man in isolation with ringing in his ears – Tinnitus – maybe a sound picture of him – his world as he hears it.

I wondered what to do next. Because VoodooPad is essentially a wiki, I started looking for a word to turn into a link so that I could create a second page. As with the other tools I tested, I wanted to start the story development from scratch each time, so here I wanted to create a rough story outline, I didn’t want to start out writing too much detail. But a blank white space invites you to fill it with text (or something), and the cursor, which sat blinking at the top of the blank page, seemed to be inducing me to start writing in a linear fashion. This was in marked contrast to the mind-map approach, where you can start in the middle and spread out. Scrivener was also better in this respect because the corkboard encouraged me start throwing ideas down onto separate index cards, so I could get moving fairly quickly on the story, which is a good thing.

Then I thought about the idea of an index page and I thought I might as well do what the name suggests and create an index of links on the home-page, which would begin to structure the story. I came up with a satisfactory list of potential navigation links, but I could have come up with such a list of categories using anything – e.g. pen and paper.

This led me to question whether VoodooPad was an appropriate tool for starting to develop a non-linear story from scratch. I decided to abandon it and move on to my next story development tool.

Using OmniGraffle Pro

OmniGraffle flowchart (click to enlarge)
OmniGraffle flowchart (click to enlarge)

I began an OmniGraffle flowchart on an empty white ‘canvas’ by drawing an object in the middle and inserting some text. It was easy and I didn’t have that feeling of being faced with an empty white expanse which needs filling up with linear text as I did with VoodooPad. It felt more like working on a virtual whiteboard – although not as immediate and intuitive as my actual whiteboard. Ideas didn’t flow quite as quickly and I found myself frequently thinking about what to do next, which story fragment to place where. With the whiteboard I felt much freer to simply write ‘Anger!’ or ‘Shouts’ or ‘WAR’. Somehow the relative formality of the OmniGraffle text boxes made me look for pertinent short phrases, that made sense, and summed up the key point of the scene/fragment. Interestingly, I began to think much more in terms of scenes rather than fragments.

OmniGraffle compared to whiteboard for brainstorming

Although it’s entirely possible to use OmniGraffle for brainstorming ideas, I’d rather use a whiteboard. I prefer the immediacy and also the physicality of it, especially working on a large whiteboard (mine is 120 cm x 150 cm). Having to stretch and bend to write, moving around, using expressive hand writing and expressive body movements too, all this kinetic sensibility helps make connections for me and stimulates ideas. Writing quickly or carefully, scrawling jagged lines or drawing smooth curves, attacking the board or using a gentler touch – all this adds meaning for me, which not only translates into the visuals that build up on the whiteboard, but also into meaning that is somehow imprinted in my sense memory. Looking at the gestural writing and marks on the mind-map brings back those sense memories.

Nevertheless OmniGraffle is an excellent tool for structuring a non-linear project. It’s good for building an overview of the structure, it’s easy to colour-code elements and reposition them by dragging them around, so it’s good for editing and refining the structure as the project develops. You can work on a number of linked ‘canvases’ so you can create complex and large-scale flowcharts, which is a major benefit over a whiteboard. As a diagramming tool, I think OmniGraffle is best used in conjunction with another story development tool that allows for writing in more depth (e.g. Scrivener).

Another research question emerges

None of the individual tools or methods explored so far answered all my non-linear story development needs. It was now clear that I needed a combination of tools – namely, the whiteboard with post-it notes; Scrivener, especially with its virtual index cards and keywords; and OmniGraffle for creating a detailed structural flowchart. So at this stage in my research I decided to explore the potential of this non-linear writing toolbox. Thus a new research question emerged.

Can the following modus operandi produce a readable and engaging interactive non-linear narrative?
  • Brainstorm creative story ideas and themes (e.g. mind-map on whiteboard)
  • Gather multimedia research materials (Scrivener)
  • Arbitrarily develop story elements/fragments in note form on corkboard index cards in Scrivener and tag them with keywords as you go – using as many keywords as you want – don’t worry about a logical taxonomy, what you’ll be developing is a talesonomy.
  • Using the keyword search in Scrivener, analyse your pattern of keywords. Where are the significant connections? What main themes are emerging? At this stage, it’s just to gauge an overall sense of the piece – keep things fluid, don’t set anything in stone yet.
  • Once you have enough story elements/fragments, start writing them in more detail – this is essentially a first draft of the written piece/script – add more keyword tags if they occur to you.
  • Do another keyword search – what patterns are emerging now? What does this tell you about how to structure the piece?
  • As a result of your keyword search analysis, edit and/or redraft your story elements, add new ones if necessary.
  • Analyse your keyword search results from a structural point of view, and begin to develop a structure in a flowchart (e.g. using OmniGraffle), possibly using groups of keywords.
  • Once you have a first draft of the structure, have a look at your written story elements and start to group or present them according to this structure you’ve developed – you might continue to use Scrivener and OmniGraffle for this – or it might be useful to try the story structure out in another hypertext environment, e.g. VoodooPad wiki.
  • Carry on writing and restructuring, rewriting and restructuring, until you’re happy with your final draft script/blueprint.
  • Construct the non-linear, interactive, multimedia narrative in whatever authoring environment suits best – e.g. Flash and HTML.

Using a combination of tools

virtual index cards (click to enlarge)
virtual index cards (click to enlarge)

I’d already undertaken the first mind-mapping stage of my new modus operandi so I returned to the Scrivener index cards, this time allowing myself to refer to my whiteboard mindmap. This combined approach had a positive effect on my workflow. I seemed to be able to carry over the intuitive style I’d developed while mindmapping to the index cards, ‘throwing’ cards in more spontaneously, generating ideas more freely and with more feeling. Previously I’d been thinking of the index cards as synopses of story elements I would write more fully later, but now it started to feel like the story fragments might remain this brief.

Rethinking: from story to narrative poem?

Considering how I’d been using keywords and post-it notes on the whiteboard, it occurred to me that I could think of the piece more in terms of poetry than story. A multimedia interactive poem – the reader puts the pieces of the puzzle together by navigating through the poem.

I felt expanding the fragments into fuller scenes might fix the picture too much. I wanted the piece to be much more about elisions and slippages through time, because that’s how it is with the old man, the past is always with him impinging on the present.

The other important consideration is how the other multimedia elements will work with the text – the images, animations and sounds. If the fragments are written up as scenes there’s a danger that the visuals and audio become mere illustrations to the story, whereas if the text is more like a poem the multimedia elements will have the same status as the text. It becomes a multimedia poem, rather than a hypertext story with multimedia illustrations. The process of working with virtual index cards, keywords, post-it notes and mind-maps, rather than with straight text, has made it clear how important the multimedia elements are in telling the ‘story’. For instance, a ringing sound of Tinnitus slipping into the ringing alarm of WWII fire engines takes the user/reader straight inside the old man’s head. The user experiences what he experiences. This is the power of multimedia – use it!

Hero Dad index card
Hero Dad index card

Here’s another multimedia example (see left).

bed bug

My original idea for the Hero father story fragment was to recreate the humour of how the father would’ve related the bedbugs story to amuse his daughter. But as soon as I added a couple of images of bedbugs, for research purposes, to the index card I saw how I could use animated bedbugs for more direct comic effect (as well as the creep-out factor).

Attempting to control hypertext

By this time I’d arrived at 56 index cards carrying between them 46 keywords. This seemed like too many keywords and I wanted to bring them under control, so I started grouping them, using and customising other categorising metadata features of Scrivener (i.e. Labels and Status). I also played around with keywords on post-it notes on the whiteboard.

keywords on post-it notes (click to enlarge)
keywords on post-it notes (click to enlarge)

I spent some time on this and came up with some themed keyword groupings, but on reflection I realised this was probably misguided and was certainly done prematurely. I should’ve done the metadata grouping after doing detailed keyword analysis, not before, because after analysis I saw different connections emerging. Ironically, I think it was the demands of drawing understandable whiteboard/post-it mind-maps that caused me to develop theme groups prematurely.

I realised that, if I’m going to use my talesonomy idea, I should let the keyword patterns (like a tag cloud) guide me, not the demands of drawing a mind-map. I should embrace the feral tendency of hypertext (Walker 2007). However, I identified two functional categories that would be useful in terms of story structuring metadata: character point of view (POV) and the time period of each story element. So I customized Labels and Status to show this information.

Tag Clouds

Due to my interest in using keywords in Scrivener as a method of structuring my non-linear narrative, I began to look into other mentions of tagging and narratives in the blogosphere, and I came across TagCrowd.com. I had tried creating my own visual representation of keyword frequency by inputting the keyword statistics into Excel, but the resulting graphs were unsatisfactory (nothing like a tag cloud). TagCrowd was exactly what I wanted.

created at TagCrowd.com

At first I created an overall tag cloud based on all my keywords (see above).

tag cloud
tag cloud

Then I thought it would be interesting to test whether I had chosen the right keywords, so I uploaded the titles of all my index cards (unfortunately there was no easy way to use the synopses) into TagCrowd. The resulting tag clouds show some interesting differences when compared to the overall keyword tag cloud (see left).

Next I wanted to analyse my keywords in relation to the character POVs and TIME periods as a way of focussing and finding a structure. So I created a tag cloud for each character POV combined with their appropriate TIME periods. Using print-outs of these tag clouds, I created a rough flow chart on the whiteboard,

whiteboard flowchart with 'string of pearls' (click to enlarge)
whiteboard flowchart with 'string of pearls' (click to enlarge)

applying a ‘string of pearls’ structure to the project. I decided on 6 pearls:

  • Present Day 1
  • WWII past 1
  • 1960s/70s
  • Present Day 2
  • WWII past 2
  • Resolution

My next task was to develop this broad outline flowchart structure into a more detailed flowchart in OmniGraffle. The idea being that this should provide me with a solid blueprint to work from to author the interactive production in rich multimedia.

However, after turning all the story’s index cards from Scrivener into flowchart objects distributed across 6 pearls in OmniGraffle – I stalled. I began to lose faith in my process. I felt I’d done an awful lot of categorising and analysing and assigning keywords, but I was no longer sure to what end. When I looked again at the early stages of my flowchart, I wondered if I could have got to this point much sooner. Perhaps all the work I’d done so far had just been an elaborate displacement activity – a way of avoiding writing the story.

In some ways this was a temporary blip in confidence in my process caused by shifting to another application. This is a downside of using multiple applications, but one that, as I become more accustomed to them, I should be able to overcome. I still trusted the keywords’ ability to reveal how disparate story elements connect to each other and therefore help determine story structure. Whether the ‘string of pearls’ architecture is the most suitable story structure remains to be seen.

Mapping my story

However at this point I conducted my interview by email with Ron Wild, a Canadian cARTographer (see below). I’d been intrigued by the way he used ‘“Non-Geo” Graphical Information Systems’ to map ‘Knowledge Domains’ (Wild 2007, greatmap.blogspot.com) and had wondered if these techniques could be applied to non-linear interactive fictions.

Ron Wild's GreatMap
Ron Wild's GreatMap

This was a timely reminder that there could be other ways of approaching my Tailspin story and thinking about the possibilities of a map-like structure renewed my enthusiasm. Here’s what Ron Wild advised:

“Visually try to show as much of the whole picture as you can at once, and let the ‘reader’ decide in what order, and to what level he wants to ‘read your story’. Linear sentence-by-sentence, page-by-page story telling is Gutenberg-era technology. The web affords us interactive drill-down (zooming) functionality that we have only scratched the surface of so far. Visual/spatial (maps) presentation of stories, is a new frontier where considerable contributions can be made by artistic/creative researchers like you.” (Wild 2007, email to author)

I liked the idea of giving the reader an overview map and allowing them to ‘drill-down’ into the narrative, revealing different levels of the visual/spatial map as they go, until the source of the story is mined (or like a 19th C. explorer discovering the source of a river) – which in this case is the ‘deaf = alive’ equation.

Ideas about how to present the story on the web immediately sprang to mind – e.g. a bird’s eye view of the story with some intriguing animation that attracts the reader to specific areas of the story map – or sound that’s activated on mouseover, drawing the reader to investigate further. It would also be important to allow the reader to easily zoom out again to explore other areas of the story map.

It seems particularly fitting for a reader to uncover a story in this roundabout, spiralling, webby kind of way. Life’s mysteries are rarely uncovered by a logical, linear process of deduction. You arrive at answers, ideas, suspicions, intuitions… haphazardly in fragments. Over time you build the picture, piece by piece, until the jigsaw comes together and you start to see the pattern.

I think a map metaphor and structure could really work for my Tailspin story – a map of isolation, of the distances between family members; a map of emotions; a map of memory and the past.

Although I haven’t yet found the definitive structure for my non-linear story – for example, there may be ways of combining a story map with the string of pearls structure – what I have is a range of possibilities for telling the story and a methodology for working on it.

Concluding thoughts on the development process

This whole project has turned into an experiment in developing story structure with less emphasis on word-craft than I’d initially imagined. I’ve been evaluating tools and software in terms of how it can help structure and organise material and ideas – very much about a pre-production process. It’s been more about designing a viable narrative environment with the right conditions for a story to exist and flourish. As Marie-Laure Ryan says, when it comes to interactive narratives ‘engineered might be a better term’ rather than thinking about them as being written (2001, p.46).

Although this particular process is not what I anticipated at the outset, it’s a good thing because it means that the production stage is where the full creative authoring takes place. I’m preparing the ground now for the next creative stage. This is much better than ending up with the equivalent of a final draft script that I must mechanically execute in (for e.g.) Dreamweaver and Flash – a craft-based rather than an authoring process. Now the production stage will be an entirely creative rich media stage, working equally with words, images, audio and animation in an integrated way. I don’t have to stop being the author of the project and start being the director/programmer/animator/editor. It becomes a seamless creative process, which feels right for making an interactive multimedia fiction. Perhaps this is a transliterate way of writing?

Christine Wilks, April 2007
originally written for my MA in Creative Writing & New Media
at De Montfort University

Literature Survey

I began by reading the following book, which gives practical advice for new media writers and a number of useful case studies. From this source I learned that it’s common practice to use flow charts when writing for interactive media:

Garrand, T. (2006) Writing for Multimedia and the Web: A Practical Guide to Content Development for Interactive Media. 3rd ed. Focal Press (an imprint of Elsevier)

From the following sources I gained more information about other idea and story development methods which I thought would be useful for non-linear narratives – e.g. mind-maps, using index cards:

Wild, R.B. (2002) Mind Mapping. CIPS Edmonton Report, April 2002, pp. 6 + 12.

Illumine Limited (undated) MakeaMindMap.pdf [WWW] Available from: http://www.mind-mapping.co.uk/assets/MakeaMindMap.pdf [Accessed: 3/3/07]

Rossio, T. (1997) The Wind-up & the Pitch, Screenwriting Column 11 [WWW] Available from: http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp11.Wind-up.and.Pitch.html [Accessed: 1/4/07]

I used the following web sites to research and, where necessary, download the software I used to develop my story:

Blount, K. (2007) Literature and Latte – About Scrivener [WWW] Available from: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/about.html [Accessed: 3/3/07]

Member Forums (2007) Literature and Latte :: View Forum – The Zen of Scrivener – Usage Scenarios [WWW] Available from: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=19&sid=ab7f543ca4db28a9ad548cea1d824516 [Accessed: 19/3/07]

Flying Meat Inc. (2006) Flying Meat: VoodooPad [WWW] Available from: http://www.flyingmeat.com/voodoopad/ [Accessed: 3/3/07]

The Omni Group (2007) The Omni Group – Applications – OmniGraffle – Professional [WWW] Available from: http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnigraffle/pro/ [Accessed: 3/3/07]

Steinbock, D (2007) TagCrowd [WWW] Available from: http://www.tagcrowd.com/ [Accessed: 16/4/07]

To further develop my idea for using keywords/tagging to help create non-linear narratives, I consulted these sources:

Marino, M. (2007) Diigo Fiction: Marginalia in the Library of Babel [WWW] WRT: Writer Response Theory. Available from: http://writerresponsetheory.org/wordpress/2007/02/09/marginalia-in-the-library-of-babel/ [Accessed: 16/4/07]

Laccetti, J. (2007) Jess: [anatomy of a tag cloud] [WWW] Available from: http://www.jesslaccetti.co.uk/2007/01/anatomy-of-tag-cloud.html [Accessed: 16/4/07]

Walker, J. (2007) jill/txt » what is feral hypertext? [WWW] Available from: http://jilltxt.net/?p=1918 [Accessed: 12/3/07]

The following sources inspired me to consider using a map-like structure for my story:

Wild, R.B. (2007) Great Map [WWW] Available from: http://greatmap.blogspot.com/ [Accessed: 14/2/07]

Wild, R.B. (undated) eMail Illustrated [WWW] Available from: http://www.1-900-870-6235.com/eLearning/DiscoveryEmail.htm [Accessed: 14/2/07]

The following provided useful background reading about the practicalities and the poetics of creating non-linear interactive narratives:

Pope, J. (2006) A Future for Hypertext Fiction. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 12 (4), pp.447-465.

Musiyiwa, A (2007) From Video Games to Photocopying Heaven [WWW] OhmyNews International. Available from: http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?at_code=396834&no=349345&rel_no=1 [Accessed: 9/3/07]

Ryan, M.L. (2001) Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

5 thoughts on “Exploring methodologies for non-linear story development”

  1. Thank you so very much for posting this. For reminding me of the sense memory that comes with writing things by hand – in actual space (although I should know, I had my first computer, when I was 29 and that is a long time ago); for demonstrating how you can start with the index card view in scrivener and then utilise the keywords.

    I came across your post, because I had been looking for a way to use tag clouds in knowing my own mind – and there you were.

    Although I have no intention to create a non-linear story, I’m fairly convinced that my mind is too much all over the place for following linear construction methods.

    So how about Tailspin? Have you written/created it yet? I’d love to look at it.

  2. Thanks nommh. I find scrivener is a great tool for any kind of writing project – good for note-taking, collecting thoughts, scraps, quotes, whatever. It’s so easy to drag URLs from the browser navigation toolbar straight into it too.

    Yes, I went on to write/create the piece in Flash (with audio) – you can look at it here: Tailspin

  3. hello
    thanks for the information, im writing my dissertation on Non linear story and navigation, and i would like to know if you can advise me some books apart of this
    Ryan, M.L. (2001) Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media.

  4. Here are some titles from my bookshelf. The first two are useful practical books, the others are more theoretical:
    Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment by Carolyn Handler Miller
    Writing for Multimedia and the Web by Timothy Garrand
    Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet H. Murray
    Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature by Espen J. Aarseth
    Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary by N. Katherine Hayles
    The Language of New Media by Lev Manovich
    Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies by Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    The New Media Reader edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (a very expansive volume but there might be something in there)
    Twisty Little Passages by Nick Montfort

    Plus a couple of articles by James Pope in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies that you might find useful:
    A Future for HypertextConvergence volume 12, no. 4, Nov 2006
    Where Do We Go From Here? Readers’ Responses to Interactive Fiction: Narrative Structures, Reading Pleasure and the Impact of Interface DesignConvergence 2010; 16; 75 – the online version is at http://con.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/16/1/75

    I also find discussions in the blogs of imaginative, innovative game designers can be very interesting, e.g. In the Games of Madness

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