Interactive fiction and narrative games are a big passion of mine, so I’m jumping feet-first into teaching myself how to code in Twine, a simple program for creating branching and interactive stories. In addition to a big narrative project I’m working on, I want to knock out a couple of tiny, weekly exercises in Twine functions, while exploring the connection between audience and writer when we talk about interactive fiction.
I had an idea to look over some Emily Dickinson poetry while I was lying in bed all feverish from the latest elementary school plague. Last summer I had the extreme privilege of making a trip to Concord and Amherst, MA, to see both the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Dickinson archive at Amherst College with a couple of shrieking English majors. Geeking out over Emily Dickinson’s handwriting: just one way you can tell I’m a useless nerd.
There was an exhibit at the museum that stuck with me–one of Dickinson’s poems was displayed with toggles and wheels, allowing visitors to switch between alternate words Dickinson had suggested. When she would send versions of her poetry into “circulation” amongst her friends, there would often be substitute words written in the margins. She was creating hypertext. Emily clearly meant for her poetry to be interactive!
For my own part, there’s room in the larger project I’m working on for malleable text–I love the idea of “drilling down” on a bit of prose to rephrase it, get more detail out of it, and I think that using replace: macros will help me recognize where my writing is meaninglessly repetitive or would simply stand on its own with stronger language. I also like the idea of a narrating character giving us unreliable text that can be clarified through interaction from the reader.
I had help with this tiny bit of coding from the Twinery forum, using arrays, link-repeat:, replace:, and then working out how to rotate the arrays to give the illusion of a looping set of text.