My E-Lit Workshop at Festival of Writing

What are playable stories and how to start writing them

Computers and the internet have given birth to a new literary genre – Electronic Literature, or E-Lit for short. The genre covers a wide range of forms, from digital poetry to literary games and playable stories. The one thing all E-Lit works have in common is that they’re created on a computer and meant to be read using a computer or mobile device. Many are freely accessible to read or play on the internet. In this workshop, we’ll look at some examples of e-lit, playable stories that I’ve created, and how you might go about starting to write your own.

That was the title and description of the workshop talk I gave at the Festival of Writing 2013 in York on Sunday 15 September. I showed some of my own e-lit works and discussed how I approached writing them (e.g. about writing Fitting the Pattern or a peek into the process of creating Underbelly). Then I shared some suggestions of useful tools for writers who want to start creating their own born digital works.

Want to start writing your own digital stories or poems?

Here are some suggestions of web apps and writing tools you might want to try:

  • slid.es – a web-based editor for creating presentations. Here’s a wonderfully witty example from renowned e-lit author, Alan Bigelow, My Life in Three Parts, which he created using the source JavaScript framework that slide.es is built on, reveal.js.
  • Prezi – a powerful zooming presentation tool that you can use online, on your desktop or on your iPad/iPhone. Böhmische Dörfer is a very moving example of what can be achieved, created (in English) by Alexandra Saemer:

“Böhmische Dörfer” is a piece, created in Prezi, about the impossibility of reconstructing the failing memory of a traumatic historical event : the “March of Death” of the Sudeten Germans from Brno in winter 1945.

  • Storynexus – a platform for exploring interactive story worlds and writing and creating your own.
  • Scratch – a platform for programming your own interactive stories, games and animations.
  • Webmaker – “a global community that creates the web by making, teaching and remixing” – an open source project from Mozilla.
  • Varytale – a publishing and writing platform for interactive books.

Useful tools for writers and digital writers alike:

  • Scrivener – a “complete writing studio”, it has just about everything you need for researching, writing, structuring and revising your projects.
  • Scapple – a freeform text editor, similar to a mind-mapping tool.
  • Evernote – a powerful notetaking, web clipping, scrap-booking that helps you “remember everything”.