By Joe Strange
I was going to take today’s article to talk about my love of the Zelda series, what with Majora’s Mask getting a release date on Wednesday, but this morning something really interesting came to my attention, so gushing about pointy ears and creepy masks will have to wait.
Most of your have probably heard about, or read, a choose your own adventure story before. You’re given a starting scenario with two choices which were often simple and dichotomous, things like ‘take the left road’ and ‘take the right road’, or ‘run’ and ‘hide’. You’d make your choice and turn to the appropriate page, where you’d be faced with more choices, or if you chose poorly, the end of your story. They had branching lines of choices that often doubled back or cross over one another. In a way they were like video games on a page, your choices determined the story’s progression.
As a writer this style of story telling has fascinated me since I was given a CYOA book as a present from a friend. I’ve long forgotten the name of the series or even the book itself, but this one had RPG like stats, a map and even an inventory. Really it was no surprise when I got into gaming that RPG’s would be my favourite genre. But the idea of choice within a page is amazing, you can tell engaging, tense stories where the reader really feels like they’re crafting the tale instead of merely going along with the ride.
So why am I talking about this sort of thing? Well, besides the comparison to video games, a topic we mention a fair bit here, over the last few days something awesome has appeared on Twitter.
If you head over to @wnd_go right now you’ll be faced with this:
Mysterious, panicked and engaging. With two choices. If you follow this story you’ll be faced with a grim, hopeless tale. With Twitter’s 140 character limit the snippets of story need to be short and effective and the way the writer has done this is by leaving a lot of the world building up to you; ‘what’s here?’ ‘what’s happened?’ ‘how ugly ARE they?’ are all questions that you build as you click through to other profiles.
Nothing is quite as it seems in this story, and the brevity of the twits and the urgency of the tone add a tense and terrified atmosphere that’s much harder to achieve in standard written text, and it’s all done on a social network.
The story is gruesome and the chances are it won’t end well for you,
Exactly what’s chasing you is completely up to you, at no point in the story is anything explicitly stated, only that they have teeth and are poisonous.
It’s not the first case of stories being told over Twitter and I hope it’s not the last, but it’s definitely one of the most effective. When you reach the end, and to reach the end you’ll definitely have to employ the age old technique of going back a page, don’t worry, we won’t judge, you’ll discover that it’s in fact an advertisement of sorts for a novel. It should be noted that it was not done by the author, but a fan, a very dedicated and clever fan.
The creator, Terence Eden, has shown us the story telling capacity of social networks, and how there’s always more that we can do with these tools if we’re not happy with how they’re used, for a while Facebook was used by a friend of mine to tell a story in comic strip form, and there are a myriad of similar projects on other sites as well.
It all goes to show that social networks don’t have to be all about likes, favourites and reblogs, that we can use it to tell awesome stories, to engage audiences in new ways and, frankly, give people hashtag based nightmares.
You can take on the challenge for yourself by going to this twitter profile, and if after that you’d like to know a bit more about what goes into making a choose your own adventure on twitter, and it’s not quite as simple as it sounds, take a look at the blog from Eden himself documenting the process.