Telling Stories in Twine

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A screenshot of my first Twine story map.

I’ve recently found out about an exciting tool and resource that’s been around for a while now (it was originally created in 2009 – I’m delightfully a decade behind!) that I think more people should be aware of, and that’s Twine.

You can click on this link to go to the Twine website and learn more for yourself, but essentially, Twine is excellent for crafting interactive stories (think Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, but with hyperlinks) and text-based games! It has some functionality to add other media (images, sound, etc.), but the meat and potatoes of Twine is (textual) storytelling.

Twine is free to download or use online, and it’s relatively easy to use. The learning curve is very gentle. Honestly, Twine is a fantastic teaching resource. You can use it to teach storytelling, gaming, introductory coding – the only limit to its usage is the user’s imagination!

I’m still in the middle of teaching myself how to use it while I develop my own interactive story/game, and I’m having a lot of fun along the way. Creating interactive fiction is a great way to hone your narrative ability, and forces the author to seriously consider the power and impact of choices. If you’re curious, I recommend giving it a try.

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My Twine story gets bigger! A screenshot of a story map in Twine.

 

 

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First #fairytaleoftheweek Illustrations

Here are the results of the two first illustrations for my #fairytaleoftheweek project, where I illustrate a folk or classic fairy tale once a week until the end of the year. The first illustration is inspired by the Grimm’s fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. The passage where the wolf describes the flowers to the girl is depicted. The second illustration is inspired by another Grimm story, Cinderella. In the classic fairy tale, white pigeons warn the prince about the stepsisters pretending to be Cinderella (the sisters cut off bits of their own feet in order to make them fit the golden – not glass – slipper). This week I plan to illustrate a nursery rhyme by Christina Rosetti. I wanted to choose a poem this week, because it’s National Poetry Month. Feel free to follow along, or contribute your own artwork to the hashtag #fairytaleoftheweek. I’d love to see your fairy tale-inspired art out there!

New Fairy Tale Project Announcement

I’m still recovering from a virus, so this post is going to be a bit lighter than most.

I’ve been feeling a little burnt out from focusing so exclusively on my writing, so I’m going to start a new weekly project (that I intend to maintain until the end of the year) where I read a fairy or folk tale and illustrate a scene from it. I will post the art I make here and on my Instagram, so feel free to follow the #fairytaleoftheweek hashtag for updates on this front. I’m going to start with Little Red Riding Hood. Feel free to contribute your own art to the hashtag; I’d love to see a ton of interpretations of these classic stories.

Also! Preorders for Hotel Stormcove are still available, including a limited edition hardcover (ooooooooo!). All of the flash fiction in this book takes place at the same location, the mysterious Hotel Stormcove, but is written by a wide variety of authors in many different genres. I have a story called “The Inconvenienced Guest” that’s going to be in there, so check it out!

Two New Book Announcements!

I’m very excited to share some upcoming publications that will feature my work with you! My short folk horror story “One For the Wolf” is going to be in Nightscript Vol. V later this year. This story is one of my personal favorites, and I’m delighted to return to the Nightscript family for a second year. Keep an eye out on this blog in the month of October – I’m sure to do another giveaway of a copy in time for Halloween.

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Three copies of Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove: on an ereader, a phone, and in print format. Graphic by Maria Andreu.

 

I also have a speculative flash fiction story coming out in Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove. Check out the sweet graphic by Maria Andreu above. It’s an honor to be featured with so many talented authors. I’m going to give a copy of Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove away as a Twitter promotion, so if you’re interested, follow my account @_MLopesdaSilva for more details. ❤

 

Steering a Narrative

When do we let characters have their own way, and when do we boss them around on the page?

Sometimes when you’re writing a narrative, your characters react in ways that you didn’t expect, and usually that’s great. It’s fun to discover new things about your characters (and yourself) while you write. However, sometimes your characters end up doing something that stresses you out because it is decidedly off-topic.

The default advice that I see out there for that situation is: congratulations, now follow your new journey! Enjoy the chaos, because the world you’ve been writing belongs to your characters now! Sit back and let your made-up subconscious geniuses do all the work, loser!

But when you are working as a professional writer, you are usually working with a deadline, so as much as you’d love to let your plucky vampire dryad have her whimsical existential crisis on the page, as some point she has to get back to the plot she walked in with.

When do we let characters have their own way, and when do we boss them around on the page? That’s a very personal thing that has to do with 1) the author’s personal taste, and 2) how confident the author is in her own voice as a writer.

Honestly, sometimes it’s great to let go of narrative control, but when you’re trying to write a specific story, writing is about guiding your own wild creative power. Think of riding and steering a horse: a powerful animal is going to do most of the work, but you’re there with reins to help steer and put the brakes on things. When we’re struggling or lacking in confidence, it’s usually a good idea to try letting your brain take over; it’s been down this route before, and knows the trail pretty well. But when you’re uncomfortable because your brain is steering you into a tasty patch of nettles, it’s time for you to turn things right around.

But how do we know if our horse-brain (get comfy with this metaphor, because I’m riding it all the way through the rest of this essay – yeehaw!) is steering us into proverbial nettles? What the hell are “nettles” in writing?

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Well, nettles are things that nettle you, for one. They get under your skin and sit uncomfortably in the plot. But merely having the power to make you uncomfortable isn’t enough to make something a nettle, because even discomfort can be a useful narrative tool at times. Here’s another identifying aspect about a nettle: brains usually love them.

They’re often fun because they tend to pop up right in the middle of a “boring” part of writing a story. Suddenly, this exciting trip to the underwater butterfly concert is MUCH MORE important than the business meeting where your protagonist just confessed that she embezzled five million dollars from the company and hid every dollar bill inside the boxes of cereal that they manufacture.

But the most important identifying aspect of a nettle: it is way the heck away from the path you plotted originally.

When you find a nettle in your fiction, you have a few options. One is to just let the horse eat. Let that pony fill up on whatever it wants, and see where that gets you. Sometimes you get a good story out of nettles. If you think a nettle patch looks promising, I recommend saving a second file just for that so you can dig through it later.

You can also just say NO, I don’t have time for nettles, and get back to your path. This is perfectly acceptable! It’s not betraying your characters, or denying them some sort of authenticity (whatever THAT is). It’s O.K. to be in charge of your story!

If you notice that the nettle patch started to look interesting because of boredom with your own writing, well, work on that! Make your writing more fun. If you’re not entertained by your own story, it’s really tough to ask someone else to be. I usually find that it’s time to jump forward in the plot a bit, but it’s honestly not one-size-fits-all situation, so ask a trusted reader to take a look and offer their opinion. When you ask, instead of: “here’s a problem, what do you think I should do to fix it?”, I find it more useful to ask: “what would you want to see/happen next?”.

The more you write, the more confident you’ll become in your own voice and narrative sensibility. Your horse-brain will hike the trail with only a few nudges and clucks from your end. But in the beginning, there will be a lot of detours into the nettles. Have confidence, and listen to your own sense of fun (and personal taste), and the ride will get smoother.

 

A Reunion and a Cover Reveal

My laptop’s hard drive died a while ago, and today I was finally reunited with my machine! The week I spent apart from my laptop was difficult, especially since the hard drive went kaput on a day that I had four writing deadlines I really, really wanted to make. In the end, I only made two out of the four, but the two were hard-fought. One story was entirely written, and I’d sent a copy to my beta readers, so it was fairly easy to retrieve. I ended up writing another short story out in longhand on a legal pad and then typing it out on my partner’s computer when he wasn’t using it (which is a tough thing for me to ask him to do – not use his computer – because he earns a large portion of his income through writing and editing). Most of my days in the interim have been filled with research and note-taking and other, non-writing activities (of course). Writing is difficult enough, but it’s funny how just one (relatively minor) disruption can really throw everything off. I’m lucky that I could afford to fix my machine this time, but that bite was deep, and I’m deeply appreciative of all the privileges I have that enable me to write stories that are formatted and ready for publication.

Also, Luca decided to sit on the laptop about half a minute after it came home to me. He is one freaking adorable cat.

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Luca, an adorable black cat, sits on my laptop.

One of my short horror stories is going to be published in a chapbook titled ‘Nightscapes’ by Gehenna & Hinnom Books – I’m so excited! The collection includes stories by authors Samuel Marzioli, Ashley Dioses, Jonah Solheim, and John Paul Fitch. All of these stories are nightmare and horror-themed, and I can’t wait to read my copy. Gehenna & Hinnom also recently revealed the cover art, which is by David Dawkins. It looks gorgeous – really eerie and evocative.

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Nightscapes (cover art by David Dawkins).

It’s Women in Horror month – what are you reading? I’m digging into some old friends (Nancy A. Collins) and new (Caitlín R. Kiernan) – and I’m adoring both reads. I also have Jennifer’s Body (directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Diablo Cody) queued up on my watch list because I’ve heard good things and haven’t seen it before. What are you checking out?

2018 Writing Wrap-Up

The end of the year means it’s time for a fun statistics post.

I submitted 46 times so far, and received 9 acceptances.

I wrote 35 original stories (holy…I didn’t even realize this until I checked my data), and about 30-40 poems.

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I was published in Autumn’s Harvest Anthology (Short Story: “Mrs. Evergreen’s Amusement Fair”), is this up (Illustrated Narrative Poem: “MAGIC HIGH SCHOOL”), Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers (Short Story: “Cable Town Delivery”), and Nightscript Vol. IV (Short Story: “Seams”).

I also received runner up in a cursed love writing contest – go check out the story, “Love Bugs”, on Shonda Brock’s blog for free.

There are seven other writing projects of mine that have been accepted, but aren’t out there in the world yet – exciting!

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Next year I plan to:

  1. Edit and self-publish a fantasy novel that’s been sitting on my desk for a while.
  2. Keep writing short fiction, and submit to even more opportunities.
  3. Write and finish a novella.

I hope that your own writing projects are going well, and that you remember to take breaks and give yourself permission to miss deadlines once in a while. Your health – mental and physical – is very important. ❤