I started by thinking about a traditional Romance novel for my challenge— you know, beginning, middle, wedding, end. But this, after all, is the *digital* romance lab and I grew a bit restless even thinking about how much text 50,000 words is, all strung together in a line like christmas tree lights. So I started looking once again at Inform 7, the streamlined and highly efficient tool for interactive fictions writers, and wondered what it would be like to write, instead of a novel, an IF with 50,000 words (not sure whether that means text displayed or total text written, including the codey bits.) IF uses natural language so it’s great for non-programmers like me, although you still have to think like a programmer (understand logic, order of operations, defining objects, etc.) I’ve played around with it a tiny bit before but my problem is always that I want to do things way beyond my skill level; like wanting to play Chopin while I’m still struggling with Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.
My sister and I had talked about working on an IF around the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. We both love that story because it’s one of the few traditional tales that feature female agency and character development: it’s Beauty who has to make the hard choices, it’s Beauty who grows as a character and experiences a true transformation (that the Beast externalizes in his physical transformation.) Beauty is the one with the power to change the world. Beast is her prize. That’s rare. Even in fairy stories that nominally star female characters, the female characters are often just along for the ride — and I’ve always hated that the only reason anything ever happens to them is because they happen, by genetic and cultural accident, to be considered beautiful in their culture. Of course Beauty is (obviously) beautiful too; but at least she is more than that — brave, loyal, thoughtful, and most importantly, able to take action.
|Walter Crane, Beauty and the Beast (1874)|
But the problem with fairy tales is that you know how they end. How do we subvert the tale in an interesting way and also offer some meaningful choices to the player? I really liked Emily Short’s Alabaster, about Snow White. (Also check out her designer notes about the collaborative authorship aspects of the work — really interesting.) But then Emily is a master pianist and as I mentioned, I’m on Frère Jacques.
Well, so far I have succeeded in placing the Manor House north of the Avenue, with the Forest to the east. Wish me luck!