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How Writers Use Pop-Up Cubes for Branching Narrative Fiction

Books by Anne Hart.


Writing Strategy Project Guide 

How Writers Use Pop-Up Cubes

The pop-up cube will appear as you create branching narratives. Picture a cube or a pop-up book that snaps into three dimensions by extending the lines along the corner. Three-dimensional writing is in circular time with branching narratives ending in leaf nodes like the curving tree of life. Think of your story as a stack of cards-a metaphor used by many authoring tools.


1.         Take a deck of blank cards and divide it into thirds-one for each part of your story. On each card, write a

different beginnings, middle, or ending for each part of the story.


2.         Shuffle the each pile of cards so the reader can choose multiple pathways to interact within the story.

Instead of linear time, you now have a three-dimensional parallel structure that goes back and forth like a

time-travel novel.


3.         Let the reader choose a different path, or return to the beginning to start a different story.


The most important rule to remember when designing an interactive story is that there are no rules. Start with a diagram and define the widest categories. Then, refine the story diagram, getting more specific as you go deeper into each story level.

            Interactive writing uses metaphorical thinking to stimulate creative response. The interactive writer becomes a master of flexibility and a weaver of ideas, pictures, and sounds. To adapt a two-dimensional story to a nonlinear script, all you need is the flat square-the linear time.

            Traditional storytelling (with a beginning, middle and end) will still be a necessary skill, but it will become

equally important to develop and convey a plethora of variations of the middle and end. Very linear writers will

have a difficult time of it. But writers who enjoy constantly asking themselves "what if. . . " and who don't abhor the

rewrite process will find themselves better off with the various new media. Scriptwriting is verbal art, whereas news writing is verbal mechanics.

            Humor teaches hindsight-the best framework is one's peer group caricatured online.




Write in returning cycles to give the audience more choices. Create a short interactive script:


            To write interactively means to write outside of structure and tradition. Write in returning cycles, in rebounding rhythms, like the seasons, the orbits, and the love handles of revolving galaxies. Don't leave unused your vital components.

            Interactive writing and reading is about finding unexpected connections, to voyage freely over everything that's new and to broadcast it in different channels. Find new routes and meanings, new uses for old stories, and fresh angles on the news. Work freely with preconscious metaphor, as Lawrence Kubie writes in his work, Neurotic Distortion of the Creative Process.


Writing In Two Dimensions And Adapting One Medium To Another Is Directed Originality.


Project: Lead Your Avatars On "Excursions."


How To Do It:


Make a list of `excursions' to be followed by comments in their margins. The excursion may be a trip into the preconscious mind of metaphor.

            As a writer, you may find ideas by rotating an object in space, turning it upside down or inside out. Look at the inside out from a new angle, and come up with fresh ideas to make it real. The writer rotates all facets of human experience in time and space to find a fresh angle.

            Before you can learn to think and write in three dimensions, you must to learn to write in two dimensions. Picture a square drawn on a flat sheet of paper. That's two-dimensional, linear writing. However, even when writing at the two-dimensional level, you can begin to experiment by giving choices to the reader or audience.




Move Into Nonlinear Writing As You Learn To Think In Three Dimensions: 


Nonlinear Writing


All stories have a beginning, middle, and end that are tied to what came before and what comes after. Writing in flat, linear time-from beginning, to middle, to end-is only the beginning. In nonlinear writing, beginnings, middles, and endings are interchangeable like plug-and-play computer peripherals.




Write One Page In Three Dimensions


Use a parallel story structure to adapt a news event from the print media to a non-linear story that's interactive and lets the audience enter feedback for interactivity. Your topic is "The bottom line is that writers wear many hats in the new media. You're no longer strictly a journalist reporting the news-you're a creative scriptwriter, too." Your

one page could be a script or a voice-over narration on the subject of what a non-linear editor does in the new media. The term, non-linear editor, is a new job description for writers of branching narratives.


A single script may incorporate several frameworks, including streaming audio narration, animation with voice-over, and montage. Other often-used frameworks-including comedy and drama-can be applied to new media presentations, as well.


The frameworks may vary from one category of facts or segment of the story to the next. In a documentary-style biography, you might include simple animation, backlit negatives, artwork, photos, or a narration to bridge the transitions. The completed project should flow like one piece of cloth with no seams or hanging threads-like liquid,

visual music. Using a varied selection of frameworks will help keep the attention of the audience and give the writer more options to set up a mighty conclusion. Be sure the frameworks don't overpower the information with too vivid

an impact. You want the audience to remember the benefits derived from listener.




Write In Caricature When You Move From News Clip To Non-Linear Story Requiring Audience Interactive Participation


Writing in caricature is the essence of great dialogue writing. No one did it better than William Shakespeare, who was a master of writing dialogue in caricature.

            As your audience experiences the script during its performance, your writing will leap from two-dimensional text to the three-dimensional world of your audience's imagination. As you write this way, fit your dialogue into imaginary dialogue bubbles above the heads of your characters. they begin to vibrate with charisma. The goal is to give each character the ability to influence, charm, inspire, motivate, and help the audience feel important.


Using Humor


The more important you make the audience feel, the better chance humor has of conveying a message of value. You may use carefully chosen humor with serious topics to hold the attention of the audience and to prevent the

material from become too dry, abstract, or technical. Humor works well when it reveals pitfalls to be avoided. Your ability to make an audience laugh will increase the marketability of your script.


Using Drama


Drama is one of the best frameworks to use for non-fiction and instructional scripts-however difficult to do well. To incorporate drama into a non-fiction script, include a story with subplots framed like those in one of the fiction genres such as romantic comedy, adventure, mystery, or suspense. Ask how the inner mechanisms work. Are facts readily available?

            Does the script allow the leading character or narrator to share only one experience as an interlude of inserted drama in a training video? Educational scripts, sales demonstrations, documentaries, and children's programming can all benefit from contrasts shown between the frameworks of dramatization, re-enactments, and demonstration.




Develop A Corporate Case History Into An Outline For A Script


Choosing A Marketable Topic


If you're looking for a marketable topic, try writing a collection of case histories with a point that leads to a universal application that all businesses in that industry find valuable. Case histories sell to trade magazines. The trade magazine video and new media script is dramatically increasing, as videoconferencing grows more popular.

Networking, really working a room of corporate case histories is excellent material to write and sell a first script in the case where nobody hires you as a beginner, to write a script before they see what you can do first.

            Of all the topics that could waste your time, the least likely to remain on your shelf are timely case histories applied to lessons of foresight, insight, hindsight, forecasting, and advice of pitfalls to avoid and strategies or tips to show

how a group of entrepreneurs share "lessons learned" with those about to open their first business in a niche industry.


Project: Empower Your Interactive Audience With Choices


To Write A Premise, First Make A List Of Two Columns--One For Concrete Details And The Other To Show How To Arrive At The Universal Application.


A good script will take the concrete detail and show how to arrive at the universal application. You may use this concept to write a premise in less than ten words. Write a springboard of two pages to outline your point with more detail-and finally, a formal outline that tells the beginning, middle, and end of your story.

            Whether the story is based on truth or imagination doesn't change its purpose of empowering the audience to make better decisions from timely information. How can I give my story commercial appeal? Write for the ear.


Project: Back To Linear Writing For Internet Radio Broadcast Scripts:


Linear writing is required for both radio and streaming Internet audio because the ear hears from beginning to end in a straight line. If you write your script out of order, it still must be organized to be read in linear chunks. Audio writing is conversational writing. Make sure the average ten-year-old can understand it. Read everything out loud

before you write your final draft. If it's not written solely for the ear, with sound effects instead of visual shots, it won't be clear.


2.         Say it, don't read it.


Write the way conversation is said, not the way a script is read. Use large type and spell out phrases like "three-feet-by-two-inches." Never write 3'x2". Never make the script reader guess what you mean. Say what you mean and mean what you say.


3.         Write out numbers.


Spell out numbers one through nine, but use numerals for 10 through 999. Spell out words such as `hundred' or `million'. Use numbers above 10 combined with billion-dollar worlds such as 25 billion or 60 thousand. Write out ten thousand seashells instead of 10,000 seashells.


4.         Don't use symbols.


Spell out names for symbols-otherwise, they may be mispronounced. Write `dollars' instead of `$' when you want to say one hundred dollars or 100 dollars. Write the full name first if you're talking about an acronym or an abbreviation, as in World Wide Web (WWW).


5.         Write in segments.


Audio scripts are written in segments rather than pages. The audio can be played in sixty-second segments until action takes over. Don't write audio by the page because the segment hears it.


6.         Write the action.


Write about the action in your story. Back the speech by text and voice, music and visuals. We learn better that which we see and hear at the same time. When text and audio are played together, it becomes a closed-captioned sequence that may be read by those without audio capability.


7.         Write for the narrator's personality.


Keep the narrator's personality in mind when writing an audio script. Let the narrator preview the script and offer suggestions that will make the presentation feel more natural.


Video On The Web


Project: Create An Avatar Host For Web Channel Video Broadcasting


For Interactive Writing, Move Back With The Avatars


            Create A Friendly Avatar Host.


Avatars are the animated characters used in 3-D worlds to represent the participants and visitors to the site. On the Web, an avatar can easily become a news anchor or talk show host. Create an interesting personality and animate the avatar so it is perceived as you, your alter-ego, or any other person, real or imaginary. To make the listeners feel more at ease, your avatar may say `we' rather than `I'. Your avatar will be the listener's host, guide, and guardian angel, walking the listener through the talk and talking him through the walk.


            Coordinate the visual and audio effects.


To make your presentation look and feel less like a Web site, combine your message with supporting sound effects, simple animation, and illustrations within your chosen framework.


            Be consistent. It's better for the eyes and ears to work together.




Develop A Creative Concept


Explain it in a sentence of ten words or less as if it were a sales pitch to a busy producer. Brief concepts, like brief premises pitched to producers, are labeled "high concept" or "emotional arc" because the high concept idea can be summarized in a short sentence that explains the premise as the storyline of your script. For example, "Star Trek is Wagon Train in space."

            Use your journalism skills to write a concept as if it were a headline written by a copyeditor on a daily newspaper working rapidly to meet the time deadline.

            Practice writing "high concepts" as premises, revealing storylines in short sentences as if they were newspaper headlines.




Investigate how the computer industry is overtaking the media and entertainment industries and merging them.


All media is show business. Media and entertainment are merging as investors from the computer industry pour billions into both media and entertainment and then move them closer.


EXERCISE: Write a news article showing how the computer industry is moving into media and entertainment and using the same technology to stir up drama in media as it moves closer to entertainment in writing and production.


Ideas To Work Into Your Exercise:


What Do Concepts Show The Journalist Making A Transition From News To Docudrama Or Interactive Scripts?


Concepts reveal a range of change or personal growth in the characters. Write dialogue in caricature to be visual. Then, separate the high concept from the broader, whole-story-based creative concept. The creative concept is like an all-encompassing net that catches the important events of the story. Think of your creative concept as a Native American Dream Catcher with feathers and beads woven into the memories and facets of your story.


Projects For Moving Into Scriptwriting:


What Concepts Do You Find In The Computer Trade Journals And The Business Or Computer Inserts Of Daily Newspapers That Reveal A Hidden, Investigative Story For A Script On What's Happening As The Computer Industry Moves Into Media And Entertainment? Who's Leading The Venture Capitalists? What's Happening To Link The Internet To Satellites In Space?


Use News Facts From The Computer Industry As Larger Investors Move Into Media And Entertainment To Develop Your Exercise.


Projects For Developing Creativity In The New Media:


Bridge the gap between news writing and scriptwriting. Develop interactive creativity and intuition by linking investigative reporting to seeing similar patterns in very different documents. Develop creativity by seeking the hidden technology prototypes passed over by the media because it doesn't have shock value, adrenal up-drift, or startling statistics. Or seek the hidden creative market in online sports production. Tap avatar worlds and find out how their communities interact interactively. How do they get along?




Write A Piece About How Love Or Hate Is Organized Online At Websites Or Channels. How Are Movements Organized Online?


Project: You're writing the biography of an outgoing online sports producer or a reclusive online designer of avatar worlds and the relationships or emotions developing within their imaginary, virtual communities. What questions would you ask? You're assigned to present a 10-20-minute docudrama for a Web broadcasting network.

Develop a set of questions and locate someone to interview that fits the description of the producer or designer. Interview the person selected and develop a 10-20 minute biography showcasing the work.