Nonlinear Narrative

Wireframes discusses Christian Swinehart’s visualization of Choose Your Own Adventure books and relates the diagrams to design practice:

What if readers of our deliverables were guided through a set of predefined flows? What if the flows we design required readers to make choices in order to achieve multiple endings? On one end of the extreme spectrum we have passive documents such as wireframe decks where there is often a single thread of experience. Here we have guidance, but no choice as we flip from the first page till the end. On the other hand of the spectrum, we might have a fully interactive prototype. Here we have zero guidance and tons of choice (perhaps even too much). Could this more balanced combination of guidance and choice then be a more powerful means of conveying interaction and narrative in our field?

After pondering this conflict between of choice versus guidance, it occurs to me that digital narrative has been striving for the artifice of choice, knowing fully well that this artifice exists. It is not possible to give choice completely to the reader, a fact which has been discussed at length in the eLit community.

Technical constraint, artfully masked as narrative constraints, offer comfort and guidance to readers. The dungeon master exists for a reason, though the ideal story seems to require his infrequent, invisible guidance.