Following a lead from Writer Response Theory, I started reading Sugarcane, a “choose your own adventure” application on facebook. At first glance it looks a bit tiresome, with pretty closed choices to click on to follow one of several pre-planned paths. But on closer reading, it actually includes options for editing the story and adding in new pages through a wiki-style editing system.
Sugarcane is a collaborative writing system. Wander through the world of Sugarcane, choosing from multiple paths and contributing to not, as yet, extant locations.
There’s a story map which is clickable so you can enter at multiple points (so the narrative is more like a puzzle to unravel), and you can link your narrative threads to other people’s. You can also see who is reading and responding to your contributions. The writing is described by one reader/writer as:
Sugarcane is obviously new, but already it is hosting eclectic writing styles. Some writers have opted for a surreal, Alice in Wonderland world, others for (somewhat!) realistic adult fiction, and still others for sci fi or fantasy.
I’m enjoying what I am reading so far and I really like the way writers are thinking and writing about how to make individual threads link together in this genre, e.g.:
If you have a situation where the character has a run-in with the law, you can now send them to “A Night in the Cells”.
For example, your character is doing something bad and someone catches them (this may or may not be the police). You have one idea where they talk their way out of it – but that leaves you with a linear storyline. Instead, you can give the reader a secondary option (eg start an argument, resist arrest, hand yourself into the police, push the shopkeeper out of the way and keep shoplifting etc)
Although it’s not finished yet, the storyline after “A Night in the Cells” will be deliberately broad – the story can apply to male or female characters, and all sorts of prior circumstances.
This is really lovely framing for writers new to the genre. I suspect it will catch on because its collaborative and interactive and game-like. But beyond the actual story is the fact that its on facebook, so you can friend other writers and learn about their life stories, kind of creating mini meta narratives in a way that hasn’t been quite so possible in other forms of digital fiction. A Million Penguins (which I wrote about in February) had a looooooot of meta-fictive melodramas, so it will be really interesting to follow Sugarcane. Perhaps with all the narrative path choices and the visibility of the thread links through the map it will be more about groups of writers creating multiple genres from the original UR story (why isn’t UR in the scrabulous dictionary by the way?) – rather than a competition to get your own thread heard.
Anyway, if anybody else is writing in Sugarcane, let me know so we can link threads. I’d like to explore it a little more from the inside!