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“Self-Help Manual”, Richard Smyth

Part of the goal of creating an interactive fiction is to make something that entices the reader to “play it again,” to use the game metaphor that so often conflates with such storytelling. Does it have “replay” value? Is there a curiosity about the other choices one could have made and what outcomes those choices would lead to? When the choices offered are truly meaningful and have significant bearing on the outcome of the story, the stakes are higher in terms of the emotional investment the reader/player has in the story.

By creating a story prefaced by a personality test with questions that could be answered very differently on different days, depending on mood and self-reflection, I have tried to create a situation whereby the reader/player is curious about the other possible trajectories.

This work was created with Twine 1.4.2 (see http://twinery.org), a freeware interactive storytelling software package that allows for easy creation of hypertext, while allowing for the use of variables to create conditional statements. This program has some unique interface abilities, like embedding a “passage” (a lexia or node of text) inside of another passage. This made it easier to create the test. Figuring out the process for storing and scoring the personality test took a good bit of time, however. The solution to this is in the Twine software itself, as mentioned.

The other significant problem was more compositional: I like to create a structure that the reader/player will recognize on subsequent readings. The pattern becomes a generative process as well, allowing for sameness with difference.

Finally, the last problem I had was quite mundane. I did this project on a work computer and did not back up files to the cloud. The computer would not log on to the network, so the computer was out of circulation for a week, making me late with my submission. They may have wiped the drive to reinstall the operating system, so I dodged a significant bullet and hopefully will have learned my lesson the easy way this time!

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