As a kid I was thoroughly exasperated when we read the short story “The Lady or the Tiger” in English lit class. You may remember the story, written by Frank Stockton in 1882 (hence my 1880s illustration!), wherein the warrior in the arena has to choose one of two doors…a Happily Ever After ending awaits if he picks the girl and he gets eaten if he picks the tiger. (I’d be listening for growls myself.) As a future romance novelist, I wanted the HEA ending, I wanted it NOW and I wanted to know what happened next.
Well flash forward to today and interactive romance fiction of this sort is alive and well and becoming very popular. In my special post for USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog, I talk about everything from individual books to a website devoted exclusively to interactive romances. SilkWords was started by a couple, Keri and Boyd Multerer. She has a background in science and he’s the founder of XBox Live and a past Director of Development for Xbox One. With three young children, she didn’t have as much time to read as she wanted and he brought a gaming mindset to solving his wife’s problem. They also brought in Sharon L. Fisher, a noted science fiction romance novelist with RWA RITA and multiple Golden Heart Finalist credentials, to handle acquisition and editing.
The way I came to understand it after interviewing Sharon, is that in the gaming world, the player is constantly making choices, which sends them along different story paths. In the SilkWords romance world, the reader gets to enjoy the story up to a key decision point and then “picks their path” – does the heroine run off with the sweet but poor curate or does she accept the proposal from the dashing duke, for example – and the reader’s choice will dictate what happens next in the story. I joined SilkWords (membership is free) to research the column I was writing and once I got used to the idea, I enjoyed the experience. I tried a variety of the stories on the site, from sweet to very hot.
Interestingly enough, SilkWords doesn’t always provide an HEA or even a HFN ending. Sharon talks about that in more detail in our interview. And I got the viewpoint from a SilkWords author, Jax Garren. You can read more from my interviews with Sharon and Jax at USAT.
I also read a very hot novella from Christine D’Abo Choose Your Shot: An Interactive Erotic Adventure (Carina Press), which had me fanning myself and going back to explore the paths I didn’t pick the first time through! I also interviewed Christine on what the challenges were for the author writing this type of novel. She had to do quite the decision tree in her plotting and work hard to ensure that whatever choice the Reader made would move the story smoothly into another level. More from the interview with her in the USAT post.
But I have to say I had THE most fun reading the ebook version of A Girl Walks Into A Wedding: Your Fantasy, Your Rules (William Morrow Paperbacks) by Helena S. Paige. (I learned on the book’s Amazon page that the author name is a pseudonym for three lively ladies with quite varied backgrounds.) Here’s the blurb:
Your best friend is getting married, and she’s asked you to be her bridesmaid. So many decisions: for starters, do you ask the gorgeous but mysterious man you met online to come as your date? Or do you go solo, giving yourself ample opportunity to kick up your heels and scope out the talent?
Once the wedding weekend gets underway in a romantic country setting, all kinds of adventures on offer. Will you ditch your date? Duet with the hot DJ? Dodge the disreputable best man? Or perhaps the rugged pilot you meet in the bar will open up unexpected erotic opportunities – and who knew the maid of (dis)honor had such a sultry streak?
All this while steering your way through the bachelorette party, the bride’s wedding jitters, the Dress From Hell, and more. Perhaps the most tempting option is to flee the entire affair with a tall, dark stranger … or maybe an old friend surprises you with a sizzling encounter.
YOU make the decisions—fulfillment guaranteed. It’s your fantasy. Your rules. The choice is yours . . .
I had a BLAST. I went through the book numerous times, making different selections at the key points, surprising even myself LOL. I won’t tell you who I ended up with after trying all the paths, but I was happy, and not just from the champagne.
So to sum it all up, I did enjoy my dip into “pick your path” interactive romance but for the most part I’ll probably stick with writing my conventional “one path to the HEA” science fiction romances and ancient Egyptian paranormal romances.
Have you ever tried interactive romance fiction?