INVENTING INTERACTIVE NARRATIVE STORIES
Research and Design for Interlude | XD, Writing, Art Direction
A constant problem that Interlude faced was that, while the possibilities of what could be made with interactive video is amazing, it's really hard to get your head around. Sure, most people seem to get the idea of choose-your-own-adventure. But non-linear storytelling can do so much more! Loops, shifts, jumps, twists, explorations, digging in. I was tasked to figure out what is it that we could do. What non-linear stories could we tell? How could we communicate those possibilities? My own personal question though, how do we tell stories?
Surprisingly, there is very little done on how to tell interactive stories. I read all I could about storytelling structure, but so much is fixated linear structures. It wasn't until I found an amazing book, Digital Storytelling by Carolyn Miller where I came across the string of pearls. It was then I realized that I hadn't drawn the possibilities.
Below is a gallery of the first drawings for each format. As I continued to draw, I recognized that there were certain shapes that an interactive story could take and that each of these shapes could be mixed together into interesting combinations. Moreover, I recognized several of the shapes as popular movies or shows, such as Back to the Future, Reservoir Dogs, Quantum Leap, Momento and so many more. By relating interactive structures to stories people already knew, it was much easier to convey the message: You can make this too.
After experimenting with shapes, I recognized 5 main structure categories:
- Train Track: Diamond shape, with divergence and/or convergence.
- Open World: Amorphic clusters of content.
- Hub & Spoke: Central content that connects to others.
- Parallel Paths: Strings of content that link.
- String of Pearls: Groups of content progressed through in a linear order.
Of course, I tried to give cute names to some combinations that were interesting.
These structures has since informed a significant portion of the videos produced by Interlude. One of it's best, unexpected uses is for ideation and scripting new experiences. For example, see if you can see the various combined structures in the following structure made by The Daniels for their interactive documentary, The Gleam: