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July 7, 2011

In the process of trying to devise a way to organize the interactive story threads of ‘The Art of Words’, I accidentally devised a lo-fi storytelling engine called TAROT, which stands for Teller Of Random Organic Tales. I know such things have been done before, but they’ve generally been overcomplicated and focussed on prose fiction, rather than interactive fiction, as this is.

Basically, I took those word lists I devised over the past few days, printed them to index paper, cut them up into little rectagles, and started arranging them on a large sheet of paper in roughly the pattern I designed last week for the Story Shape tee shirts. It’s not perfected, but it’s definitely moving forward.

TAROT might even function as is, but the results are a bit shallow and require a lot of work extrapolating deeper story points. Given that this first experiment is going to be told in single word segments, I can’t afford to spend three years going crazy devising complex story patterns out of these simple chains. The point was to keep it simple so I could finish it this year.

I may have to design a full-sized card system that can be shuffled properly, and of course, it’s limited in how many words you can use, but if you have a general idea of what kind of stories you’re trying to tell, you can more or less pull out the set of words you want and arrange them more deliberately. Then it’s up to you to make sense of the word groupings to provide the proper context and devise the story proper, and render them to tell the story without proper dialogue or captions.

I may not end up using this system for the current project, although I’ve already done one throw to test it out. It might work, but it threatens to take the story to places I hadn’t intended, and more importantly, as I’m doing all of this work myself with all logo-shaped panels, incidental signage and bits of cartooning, it has to be more deliberate than the current system threatens to make it.

I think one big problem is, given that it’s an interactive story, I gave myself a number of directions the plot could go. A number of the words are pretty flexible, and can take things in completely different directions, which is good. I still haven’t sorted out what I think the best universal words are (I’m trying to stay away from actual Tarot designations, as I neither want to get into the messy business of interpreting the Tarot for mere storytelling purposes, nor do I wish to bring bad juju to any project I might use the system for. I’m not superstitious, but there’s no point in abusing a millenia-old augering system and learning that I’m very, very wrong about the nature of the forces behind it).

The other, more serious problem is, my current arrangement doesn’t allow for very deep storytelling, as it would require me to draw a huge number of basic logos, and then modify them for each instance, based on the context of the segment of story that is being depicted.

I’m not yet married to the notion, but I had also been thinking of integrating some limited Hidden Object gameplay into the logos, to give the audience some basic interaction and engagement with the artwork, rather than just glancing at the basic outline (word shape) and moving on.

I don’t really want to make it into a Graeme Base sort of thing, and I don’t have the time needed to write a five-to-ten hour game using single word logos. I have to hope that I put enough symbolism and graphical detail into each logo that the story depth bears closer scrutiny.

As well, it might help if I don’t use words that are too obvious (like sound effects or proper object names), but that still succeed in telling the story fairly clearly, so there aren’t any hard feelings for those who don’t go in for heavy symbolism.

But the biggest part is going to be refining the system so I can tell stories of greater length and sophistication without resorting to drawing more than three hundred logos an ‘issue’ for what some less visual readers will pour through in a matter of a few minutes. I suspect that half the challenge will be in making certain of the words obscure enough that the reader has to really READ the scene to figure out what they’re looking for.

Ultimately, I may only do a few of these experiments, unless they somehow really take off and I figure out a way to make a respectable amount of money doing them. I’m a little too old to be doing such things without any hope of remuneration, you understand. Mercenary dreams of gold and glory don’t go well with artistic vision and innovation, but I also can’t afford to put all of this time and energy into projects for the sake of Art alone. *shrug*

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to afford to hire artists to help me make these things. Wouldn’t that be nice?

More likely, the idea will be adopted and distorted into other things that I have no claim to, and I’ll be left in the dust trying to catch up as better artists and writers than me race on ahead.

Ah well. We’ll see. First I have to formalize the word orders and draw them to make the context apparent. I may have to revise my system to give greater story length in order to make this project work, but I’d at least like to have a working ‘issue’ before Christmas. I’ve been thinking I should look into Kickstarter funding. Maybe in a few more days, after I’ve got a little more to show for my efforts. I’d like to have the basic plotlines and a logo or two in the can before I try soliciting monies. It’s hard for me to pitch with an invisible ball.


One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 3:53 pm

    Sounds very cool.

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