Who hasn’t read a story where you wished you could actually be inside it? See the landscape for yourself, see how the light falls, how the air smells, how the noise overwhelms you, and see exactly how tall that building was that Spiderman just scaled. It’s not that we don’t trust the author and their powers of description, it’s just we want to be there not just read about it, and ultimately we want to tell our own stories of what it was like. I’ve been obsessing over the idea for a while. Just how could you do it? Then I heard Simon Groth from if:book Australia talk about an app that was under development. The story came in locked segments and, if you wanted to unlock the next bit of the story, you had to be in the place where it happens. Say for example the next bit of the story happened in a train station. You don’t have to be at the exact station in the story (e.g. Grand Central Train Station in NYC) to unlock the next bit, you just have to be in a train station somewhere. As long as there’s a Thomas the Tank Engine near you, you can merrily read away. It was reasoned that being in the right atmosphere made it feel more real.
While that is one of the most awesome ideas to come out of this digital era, I did not have a million dollars to spend developing an app. In fact, if I had a million dollars I would assuredly have quit my job and be writing in a villa in Italy right about now. So my next question was, how could a normal person do this? Then I realised I wouldn’t just want to move from place to place following the story of another character. I wanted to call the shots. I wanted the options. I wanted to choose my own adventure!
After six months of pondering, Adelaide: Choose Your Own Adventure was born. The project involved the world’s first (yes, I Googled it) Choose Your Own Adventure event. Rather than reading the CYOA in printed book form, the project placed QR codes around Adelaide city that you could scan with your smart phone. The code links you to the next part of the adventure where you can choose from several options to continue the story. Each new part of the story took place in the location of the QR code, showcasing Adelaide city landmarks in a whole new way. The adventure started from a single point in Rundle Mall during Adelaide Writers’ Week then branched off into three separate stories by three authors: A comic alien invasion of Victoria Square (Emily Craven), a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery in the East End (Henry Nicholls), and a dark thriller where the city facades came to life around you (Ben Mylius). The first QR code poster of the adventure is below (To scan it download a QR app for free from your Apple or Android app stores):
What truly fascinates me about the variety of projects in this new age is exactly how they came about. What ideas bubbled up to make it all come together? Because the more you know about other people’s creative process, the more ammunition you have to throw of your own shackles of impossibility and create something really interesting. Here was my thought process for ACYOA:
How cool would it be if I was actually in the story? No, not like a picture book. Actually there!
Attend an e-book seminar, do your own research, attend a three day internet marketing seminar that has nothing to do with publishing or books… at all, start a blog (http://ebookrevolution.blogspot.com) about ebooks/author marketing/connecting writers-readers.
After if:book’s wonderful ebook publishing seminars with Mark Coker from Smashwords, I set about learning all I could about everything digital. My father was setting up an online training business for hairdressers at the time and dragged me along to an internet marketing seminar. It was one of the most fascinating seminars of my life. Focusing mainly on making money online, the tools that were being used by the big players were all common sense techniques that could be applied to selling anything, including books. As a way to sort it out in my head I started a blog, running it over 31 days with a new concept from the seminars being explored each day. I also signed up for the mailing lists of several experts and companies.
Read the emails you signed up for.
It was the email on how to use QR codes that set me off. A QR code is a 2D barcode, generally square in shape that can be read by barcode apps on smart phones. You may have seen them on various promotional posters, on the side of Pepsi cans or on ads in the subway. When someone scans the barcode with their phone it takes them to a website. They are mainly used by marketers to promote a company. But they have so much more potential. For this project, the website contains the stories for each step of the Adventure. They are a fantastic little invention and easy to use on so many creative levels.
But, in my mind, the best thing with a QR code is the story can be a long as you like because it doesn’t have to be printed. If you are really daring you can merge it with YouTube videos and music, which you would never have been able to print on a mere poster.
Mix up your reading.
I remember choose your own adventures from when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure I still have a Star Wars one tucked away in a closet somewhere. It was a little too serious for my taste and I always died within the hour. How much fun can you have when you are dead? Last year I thought I’d switch from novels to short story reading for a while. One of my favourite authors, Garth Nix, had a collection called Across the Wall, and low and behold there was a choose your own adventure called Down to the Scum Quarter. It is hilarious, and if you die, you die with tears of laughter.
As fate would have it, I was tackling QR codes at the same time.
And the rest, as they would say, is a dark alien invasion Sherlock Holmes thriller.
In Part Two...
Writing a choose your own adventure, not as easy you my might think.
Adelaide: Choose Your Own Adventure is on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AdelaideAdventure). Emily is super keen to write the next adventure, so if you want your city to become its own story, get in touch.