“Awake the Mighty Dread” and “Streams Slipping in the Dark” are pieces written as part of a larger work; the project as a whole is an examination of multimodal creativity. In order to map out the chaos that is so often a writer‘s process, I begin with Flower and Hayes’ 1981 composition model [13
] (shown in Figure 1
). This hierarchical model acknowledges the fluid (and often chaotic) mental processes of writing, as it accounts for the author/creator‘s shifts in, out, and through planning, writing, and rewriting phases at any given point in the process.
The model is not a perfect one, as it is so self-contained to the particular text currently underway, and does not account for external influences such as interruptions, long-term breaks in the creation process, or simultaneous work on other texts. It is also notable that this cognitive process model does not in the first instance incorporate multimodal forms of creation, focusing exclusively on written composition. It may seem inappropriate to apply this model to the synaesthetic process of creating digital fiction in what Andy Campbell calls a “liquid canvas” [22
], but incorporating Flower and Hayes’ 1984 Multiple Representation Thesis [23
] offers a more fluid aspect. This thesis poses that “(w)riters at work represent their current meaning to themselves in a variety of symbolic ways”, which includes multiple modes such as imagery, prose, sound, movement, as well as rhetorical devices such as metaphor, schemas, and abstractions [23
] (p. 129). Expanding the model to include not just written prose but all modes within the current text permits examination of a multimodal creative process.
For the purposes of this paper, I am primarily interested in the white-space between planning
. This gap is where implicit collaboration has a role, as it is where “surfing” for materials enters the process. During the planning process, I envision the text; this generally involves drafting print-only versions of the text, storyboarding, and concept mapping, though not necessarily all of these stages occur for every project. For multimodal projects, another box could be added in this white space: seeking resources (Amerika’s “sampling” [5
]). As the following sections on use of images and use of source code explore, explicitly exposing myself to and actively seeking others” art to appropriate during this point in the process has a direct effect on the translation of the project at hand.
3.1.1. Use of Found Images in Hyperfiction
“Streams Slipping in the Dark” [21
The working plan at this stage was to build the hyperfiction around the visual concept of a Tolkienesque fantasy map of the island queendom that the characters were exploring (see [24
] for an example). I made extensive use of stock materials on deviantart.com for parchment-like background textures and Photoshop brush sets of map icons (mountains, villages, trees, etc.
), which I intended to assemble into a final image of my own creation. The hyperfiction’s rhetorical goal
was to offer an interactive map that would deliver bits of the story in chunked lexias as the reader explored, inviting the reader to follow the actions of the characters within the story.
I am not a visual artist in any way; even armed with the ingredients for a fantasy-style map, I still needed some visual samples of finished maps to guide me. In my quest for more experienced artists’ creations on deviantart.com, I discovered deviantart.com user anna-terrible’s 2011 ink-and-watercolor “childhood dreamspace map” (see [25
]). deviantart.com (at this time) does not offer a search filter for work with Creative Commons licensing, and thus searches result in a mix of works that are and are not available for appropriation. At times, this can be frustrating, as I generally find that the highest quality work—i.e.
, that which I’d be most inclined to use - carries full copyright protections. Often these form part of professional artists’ sample portfolios. On the other hand, the inability to filter this protected, professional-level work out can, as in this case, lead to inspiration rather than full appropriation. In this case, anna-terrible’s image is not shared in the commons, but its whimsy, color, and depth were eye-catching and intriguing, lending the image toward narrative rather than mere illustration; the colors and textures overcame the barrier of the screen to create “a stage on which fairy tales spring to life” [26
] (p. 435). The artist’s description furthers this perception: “for class i had to draw a map of any events that happened during my childhood. this is where i remember dreaming as a kid (sic)” [25
] (n.p.). The inspiration for “childhood dreamspace map” seated itself well in the narrative of “Streams Slipping in the Dark”, which centers on a young girl who is, in essence, dreaming the entire landscape(s) in which the story takes place.
Finding this image first resulted in exaltation, as it seemed to be an image I would have created for this piece had I the requisite skillset, followed swiftly by extreme disappointment that it was not licensed for commons use. I repeatedly returned to the image, however; it did not fit into the story perfectly, of course. “Streams” was centered on a castle, and contained neither a haunted house nor a marketplace, which are the defining features of “childhood dreamspace map”. Eventually, I settled upon a new plan, adjusting the previous rhetorical goal
: to use desktop illustration to emulate the outline, depth, and feel of anna-terrible’s dreamspace for a visual space that invited the reader to explore, while manipulating the image to fit more seamlessly into the narrative I had created. The result clearly shows the origins of the image as belonging to anna-terrible, but sufficient changes wrought to bind it within the storyworld of “Streams Slipping in the Dark” (see Figure 2
In the end, the translation of this hyperfiction was a much more ground-up creative activity than I had planned for. After all, my initial work was largely a process of assemblage: using other artists’ Photoshop Brushpacks and textures to piece together a useable fantasy map. Inspired by anna-terrible’s dreamscape, however, I embarked upon a piecemeal illustration journey that resulted in appropriation (the basic outline of the island, the pirate ship, the train, and the basic outline of the castle all came from other artists), assemblage (putting all the pieces together, manipulating them to work together in the same image), and original creation (the village, the forest, the water, the coloration).
Anna-terrible’s dreamscape also affected the narrative and the (implied) readers’ experience. Had I carried out my original plan, the resulting image would have carried connotations of Tolkien-variety fantasy, familiar and even clichéd. It would have incorporated iconic imagery (representations of mountain ranges, forests, cities, etc.
) in a largely muted color palette (that of parchment-and-ink), with a two-dimensional aspect. The final image that I created (Figure 2
) instead carries a more whimsical, child-like tone, calling to mind pop-up storybooks in its depth and color, immersing the reader in the fairy tale world through Benjamin’s “primal phenomenon” of color [26
] (p. 442). It carries forth the fairy-tale aspect of the narrative through to the imagery, and illustrates (though not explicitly) the truth underlying the narrative itself: that the world is created in the dreaming mind of a child. The effects of illustration and depth, instead of flat, representative map-space, invite the reader to explore the map. They offer a space within which the reader can travel him/herself, rather than merely following a dotted line of the characters’ travels. The further the reader moves into the image, the more narrative they discover, moving with the characters rather than observing from a distance.
The implicit collaboration with anna-terrible in this piece resulted in better integration of the modes used within the text than my original model and storyboards had outlined, better meeting the rhetorical goal I had established for the piece. In the next section, I will explore a more direct form of implicit collaboration: code-borrowing.
3.1.2. Use of Open-Source Code in Interactive Fiction
The philosophy of open-source code sharing that I will use in this paper is largely attributed [1
] to Richard Stallman’s contributions to the GNU project and his group’s “free software definition” [28
], though they are careful to differentiate between “free” and “open source”. The driving motivation between an open or free sharing of software code for noncommercial purposes is to encourage innovation and collaboration [1
]. The benefit to artists participating in this open network of dissemination is a “proliferation of potential texts amid continuously changing assemblages of authorial, intertextual, and communal networks” [1
] (p. 409).
The first code-based writing that I attempted was prompted by a university module I audited in writing games, using the Inform7 platform for interactive fiction (IF). Inform7’s source code is a friendly language to learn for newcomers, as it is actually structured to mimic the English language as much as possible. For instance, the line “A chest is an unopened, openable container in the dungeon” defines an object (the chest), its properties (it is a container that is currently closed, but capable of being opened), and its particular location (the room labeled “dungeon”). In addition to the (initially) straightforward structure of the source code, Inform7 has a small but enthusiastic community online, and many who work with the program write and share extensions to the program as well as the source code for their own IFs.
In crafting my first IF, I made use of many of these extensions; I also relied heavily upon Aaron Reed’s Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform7
]. Reed frequently uses examples from his 2010 IF Sand-dancer
], and offers links to downloadable source files from that work. Rather fortuitously for my own work, Reed’s Sand-dancer
incorporated a trickster figure, as mine did, and revolved around similar recurring themes of dream and memory. It seemed a custom-made guide for crafting my tale, the rhetorical goal
of which was to immerse the reader into the storyworld through a highly interactive narrative that placed the reader into the main character’s second-person perspective, thus intimately following both her interior and exterior journey.
The most prominent of the borrowed elements from Reed’s IF were those defining memories, and actions concerning memories; my text converted these to dreams. In Sand-dancer
, memories are things in a container labeled “subconscious”. They are triggered by the player-character (PC) handling particular objects within the world of the story, labeled “charged objects”. The first few lines of Reed’s code defining memories are as follows:
A memory is a kind of thing. A memory can be retrieved or buried. A memory is usually buried.
Suggestion relates various things to one memory (called the suggested memory).
The verb to suggest (he suggests, they suggest, he suggested, it is suggested, he is suggesting) implies the suggestion relation.
Understand “memory/memories” as a memory.
Does the player mean doing something to a memory: it is unlikely.
The subconscious is a container. When play begins: now every memory is in the subconscious.
Definition: a thing is charged if it suggests a memory which is in the subconscious.
In my IF, “Awake the Mighty Dread”, I used this example to generate a set of dreams that the PC falls into when they touch charged objects or enter the command “sleep” (differences from Reed’s code are underlined
A dream is a kind of thing. A dream can be dreamed, or undreamed. A dream is usually undreamed.
Trigger relates various things to one dream (called the triggered dream).
The verb to trigger (he triggers, they trigger, he triggered, it is triggered, he is triggering) implies the trigger relation.
Understand “dream/dreams” as a dream.
Instead of examining a dream when player is awake: say “Dreams only become real when you’re asleep”.
Does the player mean doing something to a dream: it is unlikely.
The subconscious is a container. When play begins: now every dream is in the subconscious.
Definition: a thing is charged if it triggers a dream which is in the subconscious.
Clearly, the code is copied and pasted from Reed’s source code, with some (but not all) labels changed to suit the new story: “memories” become “dreams”; “suggest” becomes “trigger”. The code shifts significantly after this sequence, as the action of dreaming required further parameters related to sleeping and waking that were not required for Sand-dancer’s use of memories.
Use of Reed’s code did not introduce dreams to the overall narrative, as dream sequences are clearly present in drafts of “Awake’s” analogue version, though they are triggered not by charged objects or conscious efforts to sleep but by extreme emotional stress. The effect of the code-borrowing in the IF is significant to the finalized text, however, as it did result in a shift in the action of the IF narrative through the addition of charged objects. The PC must make their way through a large palace full of objects – some charged, some not – in order to reach the conclusion. Falling into dreams offers crucial insight into the story, why it is happening, what the PC has to overcome; falling into dreams and not being able to escape them leads to a bad end for the PC (death or inability to continue with the story). These charged objects triggering these dreams over and over are not present in early drafts of the story, as the analogue story follows the path I as the author dictated. Their appropriation from Reed’s IF shaped the text’s translation
significantly, and allows for “Awake’s” expansion into Montfort’s “potential narratives”, brought about by the exploration of space and objects that is intrinsic to interactive fiction [32
] (p. 14).
It is also important to note that I completed one analogue draft of the story before beginning to write the IF source code; Reed’s code served to add functionality and depth to an already-developed narrative and storyworld. Had I begun with his code as inspiration for a new IF of my own, perhaps the work that resulted would have been more derivative than collaborative. As I was working from an established narrative or text-so-far, however, Reed’s appropriated source code expanded my work in ways that, given my novice capability with the code, I could not have anticipated or built without its incorporation. While quite often the cut-n-paste technique leads to changes in the narrative because of limitations (e.g., code has not been previously written/made available for the desired functionality), here it enhanced and pushed “Awake” into narrative possibilities made available only through the implicit collaboration of the more experienced code writer.