Judy Malloy

Classic Authoring

Book Reviews
Authoring Systems and Interfaces

Dan Waber
a kiss
Software: Twine

detail from a kiss by Dan Waber, Drunken Boat 17, 2013

Dan Waber is a poet, playwright, publisher, and multimedia artist, whose work is predominantly language-based.

Waber's works of electronic literature include Strings, presented in Flash and published in the Electronic Literature Collection v. 1; the collaborative hypertext, that reminds me; and the brief, dense, fluxuating poems in his elegant collection cantoos.

"A web search on his name, (in quotes)" he observes, "will produce a veritable cornucopia of literary oddments, amusements, and geegaws."

a kiss, an innovative use of the freeware hypertext application Twine, was published in 2013 in Drunken Boat 17.

In his statement for Authoring Software, Waber explains that "You begin at the center of all things, the moment of a kiss and are able to move outward from that moment in several directions. Each choice leads to more choices, the further away you move, until at the outermost limit all possible choices lead back to the moment of a kiss. "

To find out more about Dan Waber's work, visit his webpage at logolalia.com

Dan Waber: a kiss

In 2010 I was noodling around with a free tool for creating hypertext stories, interactive fictions, and text-based games called Twine when I had an idea for a piece that I thought would be perfect to make with it.

Twine is a prime example of a piece of software that makes a hard job easy and has a learning curve that is shallow but deep. It is one of the least intimidating pieces of software I've ever worked with: simple, elegant, understated.

Fairly early on in the writing process I started to experience some very difficult to deal with slowdowns from the visual editor, so I contacted the author of the software, Chris Klimas, who was extremely helpful. After I sent him my working file to demonstrate what I was experiencing, he made some changes to the software to improve the situation and made a suggestion for a MUCH better way to structure the node map, which is to say the story. The way he suggested was so much better that I am not sure I would have been able to finish what grew to be a novel-length text if it had been structured differently.

I had started with what was basically a top-down hierarchical tree, and he suggested a beginning-in-the-center shape, which immediately crystallized my previously hazy plan perfectly. A complete node-map is available via a link on navigation bar within the piece.

The node map for Dan Waber's a kiss.
(A node, or lexia, is a unit of text in hypertextual structures.)

You begin at the center of all things, the moment of a kiss and are able to move outward from that moment in several directions. Each choice leads to more choices, the further away you move, until at the outermost limit all possible choices lead back to the moment of a kiss. The nature of combinatorials and the torus-like structure of the piece hide the size of it from the casual few clicks. There are 1001 passages in total, a mixture of memoir, poetry, jokes, recipes, anecdotes and fictions -- though in both the beginning and end it is at its heart a love letter.

An answer to the simple question asked by my wife, "What are you thinking?"

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