Within the larger world of electronic (digital) literature is the genre of hypertext fiction, a non-linear approach to reading that gives readers links or modes to jump from one part of the text to another. It is, by its nature, interactive, with the reader guiding the narrative depending on the choices she makes. Hypertext fiction also isn’t necessarily limited to e-books or online stories. The term can also apply to traditionally published books (many prior to the advent of the web) with nonlinear narratives, such as Joyce’s Ulysses.
For many of my generation, the Choose Your Own Adventure novels are the best example of a traditionally published hypertext novel. Though not explicitly referred to or marketed as such, the CYOA books were hypertextual and interactive. The reader could choose any number of paths through the story that would alter the story’s outcome, and many readers (myself included) often tried to guess or predicate what would happen next, mostly to avoid the dreaded “you’ve died” message.
Now, thanks to one clever and imaginative Twitter user, the principals behind the CYOA books specifically and hypertext fiction in general have come to social media. Twitter user Terence Eden (@edent) created a “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative for Twitter. The story takes place entirely within the Twitter platform / website, and web-savvy readers and fans can navigate through a series of choices in a mysterious story. Should you run or hide? Investigate that glowing light? Fight back or flee? Each choice brings you to a another, until (of course) you die.
Eden’s CYOA Twitter story works well for a couple of reasons. Thanks to Twitter’s setup, the @ symbol will automatically link to a user name, which allowed Eden to create a variety of user names for this specific project without having to rely on outside webpages or excessively long hyperlinks (that take up valuable “real estate” on the 140-character platform). Furthermore, Twitter allows for pinned tweets, which means Eden could keep all the relevant information at the top of a user profile, negating the need for CYOA readers to scroll. Plus, Eden kept the narrative portions of the tweets are short and to the point, compelling readers to keep clicking. The result is an addictive and entertaining story completely enclosed within this one social network. It will be interesting to see what happens next to push hypertext fiction forward even more.