Be a lab rat: Red, Like
It’s been years since I’ve done some proper experimental fiction, but THE TIME HAS COME.
The project is called Red, Like. It’s a series of stories where you, the audience, make important choices… but not in terms of plot, in terms of the details that make the world real.
It’s best if you** head on over to the lab and give it a whirl**, and then come back and read the rest of this post.
OK, here’s the backstory: I have this thing called aphantasia, which basically means that when I imagine something, I don’t actually see it, I just kinda… hold a series a parameters in my mind that make up the thing I’m imagining. So like CSS for a website, instead of seeing the website itself. I know what those parameters add up to, but unless someone renders it for me, I can’t see it.
Add into the mix the ideas of gender, personal identity, fanfiction and shipping, and the artistic imperative of an author… and you’ve got Red, Like. It’s an experiment to see how far I can go in giving control to the reader, while still telling the story I want to tell.
The first part of the project is pretty basic: the gender identity and names of the two characters can be changed, and will ripple through the story automatically. You can call them Bob and Sally, or Bob and Bob, or Sally and Sally, or Koichi and Émilie. What do those changes do to your experience? What do you see when you read it? There are various details that have different meanings, depending what choices are made, but the vital part, for me, is that on the mid-level of story, the characters’ names (and, by extension, implied ethnicity and/or background) and genders don’t change the meaning of the plot.
I’m going to get into base-level and top-level story elements in the next few steps, but for now, give Step 1 a whirl. You can tweak it, save it, and share the resulting story with friends. Then, ideally, they’ll tweak your tweaks, and make their own versions that feel “just right”.
It may take me a few weeks to get Step 2 done (lots going on) but for now, give it a try, and let me know what you think, on Twitter.