I talk a lot about mixed-media stories, writing, and story craft. But this blog is about more than just multimodal stories. Interactive stories are part of the revolution.  There are a lot of different ideas about interactivity, though. So, for my blog, I say interactive stories are stories that adapt to the will of the reader. There are diverging roads, bonus features, and extra tidbits for the reader to explore, making no two reading experiences the same. None of this is for novelty. None is “just because it’s cool.” Every aspect is crafted to be what is best for the story; what the story deserves. One of my favorite posts from Around the Web is Inkle’s 10 Types of Interactive Stories which shows some different ways of adding interactivity to your stories.

But what do these look like? What are some concrete ways to make a story interactive? How can technology help us? Well I’ve put together a list of some brainstorm ideas for interactive stories. These are not story ideas about characters, but method ideas about adding interactivity.

Each of these would need to utilize technology in some way, which would make it difficult for many writers. That is going to change. Keep an eye out on this blog or my research blog for a new endeavor called Phoenix Labs. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

So, without further jibber-jabber. Here are some starting points to get creative juices flowing.

1. Giant Madlib

What about a story that knows your reader? Not your target audience, but your specific reader. Before the story started, the reader input several details about their life: favorite color, vacation, fears, etc. And the story, like the world’s best madlib, put these details in the right spot, making each experience different. Unique to the reader.

2. Bonus Features

Blue-ray discs have them, why not books? Deleted chapters, character interviews, behind the scenes commentary. You get the idea.

3. Choose Your Own Path

I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly a new idea. With technology, however, you can do a classic “choose your own adventure” story in really interesting ways. One example is the inklewriter.

4. Maze where reader solves puzzles

What if, like a video game, the reader could not progress until they’ve solved the puzzle for your character? Lost in a labyrinth or on a clue hunt? Personally, I’d love this.

5. Collaborative (wiki) Story

Wikis (as in wikipedia) are collaborative documents that many people can edit. Open wikis are open to everyone to edit. Most, like wikipedia, are semi-closed. You must have a reputation to edit important articles. Why not let a story evolve in this same way? Discuss, collaborate, and create something better than you may have imagined.

6. Collaborative (Git) Story

Git is a computer programming tool that allows programmers to work collaboratively on software. Github is the best example. Here’s how it works:

  1. A user creates a “repository,” that is a folder with all the programming code inside. Anyone with access can browse the folder and look through the code. Github repositories are open to everyone.
  2. If a user wants to help make a repository better, then can “fork” it. This copies the repository to their account. Now they can make changes without the changes affecting the original.
  3. When they’ve made the changes they want, they can submit a “pull request” that tells the owner of the original repository, “hey, I did something cool. If you want to, you can add it back into the original!”
  4. The original owner can then “merge” the new changes into the original.

Why not try stories the same way? What makes this interesting is that you may (or will) end up with tons of “what if’ scenarios and alternate universe kinds of ideas.

7. Collaborative (Chain) Story

We all did this in school. Start a story in a circle and let the next person take it in a new direction. In today’s virtual world, you can pass a story around the planet and watch it grow.

Any other ideas? Share them with the world through a comment.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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