Interactive novel

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The interactive novel is a form of digital fiction. While authors of traditional paper-and-ink novels have sometimes tried to give readers the random directionality offered by true hypertexting, this approach was not completely feasible until the development of HTML.


Paper novels (indeed, some digital novels) are linear, that is, read from page to page in a straight line. Interactive novels, however, offer readers a unique way to read fiction by choosing a page, a character, or a direction. By following hyperlinked phrases within the novel, readers can find new ways to understand characters. There is no wrong way to read a hypertext interactive novel. Links embedded within the pages are meant to be taken at a reader's discretion – to allow the reader a choice in the novel's world.

A typical example of this genre is The Interactive Novel: Pick a character, pick a direction, found on David Benson's "No Dead Trees" website. This fiction allows readers, who can also become writers, to explore the novel from a list of characters given at the site. The novel is intended to be read randomly, as the reader chooses to follow various directions. The genre has prompted some less than respectful responses, including a comment by John Updike, who participated in an early effort at online fiction, that "books haven't really been totally ousted yet."[1] Other critics, while conceding the hyped and trendy nature of the genre, have found real value in the immersive if sometimes disorienting nature of interactive fiction.[2]

There are many interactive novels on the Web. Some of the older efforts have fallen into disuse, but the ease of creating such fiction, with the lack of the barriers to entry typical of traditional paper-and-ink publishing, helps to keep the genre alive with new works.[3]


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