Where The Ending Starts is a multi-linear, interactive ghost story that plays with the ideas of narrative truth, perception and endings. It was developed in Twine by Hannah Jenkins and Nadia Kim. Hannah writes code and poetry, among other things, and Nadia has an interest in computer generated poetry. We asked Hannah and Nadia to give us a little insight into what went into the making of this digital storytelling experiment.
Where The Ending Starts is being developed in the lead up to Halloween, so do you have any ghost or spooky stories you’re particularly fond of?
Hannah: I’m a big fan of Junji Ito and my all-time favourite book is Frankenstein but when I think of good spooky stories I honestly can’t go past this creepypasta classic ‘goatman’. It really got me when I was younger – so much so that I stopped going camping and I would count my friends to make sure there were no supernatural infiltrators. I like how vernacular it is and how it captures that old idea of “a story that a friend of a friend told me once” that is always compelling in creepypasta stories. It builds suspense so well and describes the goatman just enough for you to fill in the rest with the worst your brain can come up with!!
Nadia: I prefer ghost stories that are more on the comedy end of the spectre-um (I’m SO sorry). One of my favourite “ghost” movies is Beetlejuice: it’s funny and silly and only a little bit yucky. The ghosts in Beetlejuice aren’t evil or mean-spirited, they’re tricksters (who also happen to be selfish jerks). I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat who’s prone to nightmares, so anything too scary – Hereditary, The Telltale Heart, most of Buffy – is too much for my delicate constitution.
Can you give us a piece of advice in 20 words or less for writers wanting to get into digital storytelling?
Hannah: Form adds to meaning so consider how what you’re building will contribute to the story and make for the best experience possible!
Nadia: Delight readers as much as you frustrate them. And frustrate them as much as you delight them.
There are a few different things that Where The Ending Starts experiments with, such as letting the reader direct parts of the story, having multiple endings, and only allowing the reader to access one part of the story at a time. What is your favourite part of this project and what are you most excited for readers to experience?
Hannah: I think directing the story down branching story-lines allows Nadia and I to play with non-linear narratives and recursive elements. This is especially cool because ghost stories already often exist in multiple versions – either from being told differently in different regions, or the same meta-narratives evolving over time for maximum impact. Being able to weave experiences from different perspectives of characters in the same situation allows us to really push how different people might experience the same thing, or how differently the same thing might be remembered. Then, this all being tied up in such a spooky and suspenseful setting just makes the whole thing that much more fun! I’m most excited for readers to start realising how differently the story can turn out based on different choices, and for them to want to “play” it through again.
One of the things this project aims to explore is narrative truth, and how this can be quite elusive because different perspectives on an event can bring different ideas of ‘truth’. Was there anything else that you really wanted to convey in your writing?
Nadia: I think I wanted to convey a sense of confusion, but also apathy at that confusion; the narrator as an unwitting, and somewhat unwilling, participant. They’re telling the story but not really driving it. They’re so uninterested that they’ve probably missed or misunderstood important events, so the reader might not trust them to tell the full story.