Anyone Can Play: Platforms for experimenting and collaborating
The survey conducted by The Writing Platform prior to launch firmly busted the ‘writer in the garret’ myth. Over 60% of the writers who responded expressed a desire to collaborate and a significant portion also expressed a hunger to experiment and push the boundaries of their creative practice.
Experimentation and collaboration come in many guises, in no way confined to the digital realm, but the networked nature of the web offers creators of all kinds unprecedented opportunities to play with form and to connect with others to do so. It lowers the barriers to entry: Don’t have vast amounts of technical knowledge? There are tools to help you out. Don’t have a buddy to work with? There are networks that connect you with others. Adopt the ‘anyone can play’ ethos and try something new – it might not be for you in the long-run, but you’ll learn a heck of a lot along the way.
Here is our round up of some of the tools and platforms available to writers looking to experiment or connect with others. We’ll add to this post as we come across new ones and we would love to hear from you about the ones you use.
Hitrecord is a neat platform that enables artists working in a range of media – text, image, audio, video – to showcase their work, invite other artists to remix their work, remix the work of others, and collaborate on themed projects.
It’s easy to get started: sign up, upload your work, invite others to remix it, or find a piece of work you would like to remix. Remixing effectively means adding to a piece of work, changing it, or using as inspiration for a new piece of work.
Here’s an example: A user wrote and uploaded The Tiniest Story. The Tiniest Story has been remixed 165 times, and has inspired this illustration and this song.
As a user you can also take part in themed collaborations such as this one inviting the community to create a piece of work based on the theme of Truth in Fairytales.
A good starting point for writers new to the platform is the weekly 10 Minute Writing Challenge which invites writers to respond to a prompt word with a piece of prose, poetry or script, created within a 10 minute time frame.
Storybird is a platform for writers who want to create visual stories. The site collects images and illustrations by visual artists from around the world and invites writers to create stories around these artworks. Writers can search themes using the artwork tags (such as this one for ‘cat’), write a story around the artwork they’ve selected, and publish it for the Storybird community using the site’s intuitive Storymaker tool. There is a strong emphasis on stories for – and by – children, with parents and teachers using the site to find appropriate stories, and so as you’d expect the site and stories are strictly moderated.
Varytale and Storynexus
The team at Failbetter Games have created two platforms that enable writers to create interactive stories and game-like experiences.
Varytale is a platform for reading and writing interactive books. Writers can use Varytale’s online tools to create interactive stories on their own or as part of a team. The beauty of the platform is that it enables writers to see what readers are reading and enjoying about their work, and thus make decisions about taking their story in a particular direction or adding content as readers demand it. It also means writers can dip their toe in the water, starting small and building the story as they learn the craft of interactive narrative.
One of the books available on the site is How to Read by Ian Millington and the Varytale Team which provides useful background on the principals of interactive narrative and using the Varytale platform.
Storynexus is a platform for exploring and creating storygames. After registering, writers start off by creating a storyworld – a location for their story – and then craft narrative routes for readers by defining the events and choices that will be available to them. All of this is done via the Storynexus platform, which offers helpful guidance through the process.
As with all the tools and platforms listed here, the best way of getting to grips with the possibilities offered by a platform such as Storynexus is to experience what others are creating.
Webmaker from Mozilla Foundation is a suite of tools designed to ‘help you make something amazing with the web’. Thimble enables users to easily create and share their own webpages whilst X-Ray Goggles enables users to inspect the code behind a webpage and remix elements using their own content. Popcorn Maker enables users to create multimedia projects through their web browser, share them on the platform and embed them in their site or blog. Users can remix content from across the web – video, audio, pictures, text, links and live feeds – or enhance content they’ve create themselves.
One of the great things about Mozilla’s Webmaker is that there are always a host of inspiring and fun projects to get involved with. At the moment you can use the X-Ray Goggle tool to create a new chapter for Inanimate Alice, the interactive novel by The Writing Platform’s very own editor, Kate Pullinger.
Before getting started on any of these platforms, especially those with a strong remix element, we’d always recommend that you read the ‘creators guidelines’, particularly those pertaining to copyright.
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