Saturday, January 30, 2016

Branches of the Past Project Announcement

I am taking a class called Software Engineering, and I think it's changed my life. In that class, I am working with a group to develop and release a software project using a technique called Agile methodology.

Now, the life-changing part isn't the project I'm working on. It's not Agile methodology specifically, either. It's the simple idea that to get a project done requires concrete goals and a real plan.  In other words, business 101, but I'd never really thought how to put that idea into practice. In this class, we developed a vision of the final goal, then broke it up into achievable tasks and scheduled the semester to plan when we will complete those tasks.

It made me realize that I had never done anything like that with my own projects. My approach has always been: have a cool idea, start building immediately. Which invariably leads to sprawling, unfinished projects (i.e., most of the projects on this blog!) that will never be completed, because I always underestimate the time and energy requirements for a given project.

So I got organized. I knew I wanted to finish a project by the end of the semester, because next semester I will be working on a project for school for the whole semester. So it had to be something I could complete in 14 weeks - 13, if you don't count break.

I settled on interactive fiction because writing is something that comes pretty naturally to me and because the technical requirements of IF are pretty low. There's also some really great IF out there, so I knew I would be in good company.

So, the project! It's called Branches of the Past. It is an interactive series of vignettes about a fictional city named Adriata. It's heavily inspired by one of my favorite books, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I will be writing 10 vignettes that together form a broader narrative. That's one vignette per week, plus three weeks for proof-reading, editing, and building a simple engine (probably a web page) to house the work.

I've already written the introduction and the first vignette, about a particularly adventurous Festival night. It's a work in progress, so I won't post the whole thing here, but if you are interested in reading the first draft and helping me to edit it, comment here or email me at To whet your appetite, though, here's an excerpt of the story (in the Inklewriter engine, as I won't be writing my own for quite a while):

Stay posted for weekly updates! After each vignette, I will update this blog with a new excerpt.

By the way, if you have never read Invisible Cities you have to. It is a phenomenal book. If you have read Invisible Cities and liked it, check out Imaginary Cities by Darren Anderson. It's both a love letter to Invisible Cities and other Fabulist writing and a brilliantly researched and beautifully written work of non-fiction. There's a review of it here and another here which sum up the things I like about it better than I ever could.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. I think any artist would benefit from that approach. I really agree that it can be a life changing experience to structure the artistic process. Instead of constraining creativity, it frees it!