Here’s the latest from the land of I Wanna Be a Famous Writer But Don’t Know Nothin’ About Writing. It’s a service called inklewriter, and it purports to help would-be writers create “interactive tales.” That’s a story where the reader gets to choose from among several options as to what happens next.
If I sound prematurely condescending, it’s probably due to the non-writerly marketing spiel on their home page. Here’s the opening blurb:
At inkle, we believe it takes great writers to tell great stories. That’s why we’ve created inklewriter, to help writers tell interactive tales with the minimum of fuss.
Fuss? Anyone who thinks writing involves “fuss” isn’t a writer. Fuss is for cleaning your oven, or wrestling with your do on a bad hair day. And the idea of great writing without effort is completely ridiculous. But then, marketing people aren’t concerned with making sense, only with creating a positive impression through words that have a positive connotation—hence “believe” and “great” and “minimum of fuss.”
What really irks me about inkle is the idea of interactive stories themselves. Sure, it sounds cool and technological, and certainly the idea could prove popular among readers. But from the author’s perspective, it’s essentially saying that the writer’s message is superfluous. The themes in the writing, the social comment, the desire to help readers understand a world they’ve never before considered—all that is now subordinate to what the reader wants.
The inklers are encouraging writers to give up their integrity in order to pander to the market (this is what marketing and advertising people do every day). They are telling writers to let the reader decide how the story should go. But a main idea behind writing (and other arts) is to convey what’s in the creator’s mind and foster an intellectual discussion of the issues raised. When a writer gives up that authority, what is left? I’d guess just a series of meandering scenarios…
When I write, I often develop several possible plot lines and outcomes. Then I work to discard all but the very best one, the one that makes the story or book resound with meaning. Inklewriter says no more of that. Meaning is passé. Leave those failed storylines in! No wonder there’s no fuss.
It’s bad enough so many agents and publishers have been duped by their corporate overlords into believing the market should drive artistic aesthetics. Now inklewriter wants writers—the very creators of the art—to believe it too. Trouble is, that approach doesn’t produce art, it just churns out more wanna-be writing. I have to believe, or at least hope, that real writers will see inklewriter for the marketing scheme it really is.
As for me, I’ll stick to good old, spill-your-guts-on-the-page writing. Maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but at least I’m not a fussbudget.