Making Interactive Fiction Mainstream: Writers
In his second post on making interactive fiction mainstream, Jon Ingold, Creative Director at inkle, explains how the studio is supporting writers with their inklewriter tool.
In my first post I focused on making interactive fiction mainstream among readers, but if interactive stories are going to become common, then there’s a big access issue to overcome. Writing a story is as easy as picking up a pen, but writing interactively means being able to code, at least a little, and that’s before you start thinking about writing a good story, which is the tricky bit!
That’s why we created inklewriter, a free web-app for writing and sharing interactive stories. The app is designed to make writing branching narrative as easy (and as hard!) as writing ordinary prose, by removing the need for coding, and making it easy for writers to keep track of branches, loose ends and unresolved options. It’s being used for short-story competitions, staff training, and in schools as a way getting kids inspired about creative writing, and was recently recognised with a prestigious award from the American Association of School Librarians.
inklewriter for Publishers
Our third major story project was created by New York Times bestselling author, Kelley Armstrong. Her publisher Dutton/ Penguin US asked her to create an entirely new and interactive story setting up the events of her new novel Omens, the first in her Cainsville series.
Using inklewriter – and with no help from us! – Kelley wrote a novella-length tale that we then turned into an interactive graphic novel app, released for iPad and iPhone as Kelley Armstrong’s Cainsville Files.
We think this is the first time a New York Times #1 best-selling author has written interactive fiction; and it’s certainly the first time we’ve had a major author using our platform to create new content. We hope to see further collaborations in the future, and we’ll soon be opening up the inklewriter data format, to allow other developers to use the site to create apps of their own.
So what’s next?
In two years, we’ve seen a huge growth in interactive storytelling, with lots of projects released that mix writing and great text content, with gameplay, choice and consequence, and interactivity, to create experiences that are both compelling and dynamic. But there are several mainstream genres still untried – we’ve yet to see a great break-out interactive murder mystery or any quality science fiction.
New players are emerging daily – the most recent that I’ve seen is Everlove, an interactive romance novel that mixes historical steaminess, casual gameplay, self-test quizzes and a rip-roaring plot into an attractive, pacey package.
Mainstream interactive fiction is coming – and we think writers are going to be at the heart of it.
Jon Ingold is the Creative Director at inkle a company that creates and publishes written content in interactive form.