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by Alice Kuipers

 

Time for my latest confession (I seem to get into confessional mode when I write for you at writeforkids.org – perhaps it’s because I’m talking to like-minded writers…). Here it is: I’m a control freak. I’m in charge of my characters. None of this “my characters let me know how the story goes, I just follow them.” Oh no. Not my characters. My characters do what I tell them. I’m a tiny god in my office and I manipulate my fictional world to make it do what I want it to do.

 

So when an interactive eBook company approached me, my curiosity was peaked. I’d seen one of their previous projects through my friend, author Jenny Ryan, who had done a longer book with them. But this was new.

 

Five weeks.
Five chapters.
Hundreds of school kids.
Weekly voting.
Readers decide the story….

 

First, I explored what interactive eBook actually means. I found many different meanings – from story-style games, to read aloud books, to choose-your-own-adventure type projects.

 

This proposal was a choose-your-own-adventure model with a twist. Kids voted on a chapter each week to decide the upcoming plot. Which meant I had to write a new chapter every week, make edits, and post in time for the kids to read and vote again.

 

I have three small children. Maybe writing a new chapter every week based on a vote was going to make life very busy, especially as the promotion for my new YA novel was starting in earnest. But, something snaggled at my brain – a sense of fun…

 

I began to write. One week, the kids voted for Tin Can Man to give Destiny a puzzle to solve. Um, that was a plotline I’d thrown in at the last minute the week before. I panicked a little. A lot. Then I did the thing that always makes me feel calm. I opened a blank page on the computer and wrote. Despite my worries, that chapter was a lot of fun to write.

 

Overall, what I’ve learned through this project is to remember to have fun with writing. All writers get in a rut sometimes, and letting someone else interact with your story and shape it is one way to jumpstart creativity, enjoy the written word, let go and let it flow.

 

If this inspires you to start writing interactive fiction, you could try an interactive book on your blog. Give choices to your readers online and see which way the story goes for you.

 

Or perhaps you feel like trying an interactive writing prompt with your writing group next time you meet. Each of you will need a sheet of paper. Start writing – for the fixed time of five minutes. Then STOP. And pass every sheet of paper to the left. Read over what the previous person wrote, then set the timer and write for another five minutes. Keep going until everyone has written on each sheet of paper. Here’s a starting image I love for this:

 

castle

 

And here are a few sites for you to read and explore to get inspired if you want to get more into interactive e-Books…

 

Teaching and Learning with Interactive Fiction
Raz-Kids
Fiction Express

 

Alice Kuipers is the author of four young adult novels and a picture book. Her newest novel is The Death of Us from Harper Trophy Canada. Check out her other writeforkids.org post, How One Top Young Adult Author *Really* Feels About Social Media.

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