Digital Writing Residency for Northern Territory Writer’s Centre

It’s hard to believe I did this residency nine months ago and only now have I found time to write about it. I’d like to think this is because I’ve been going full speed on my PhD but unfortunately, it’s the usual reason – life getting in the way. The residency was a great opportunity supported by Australian Council for The Arts and the state writers centres. My proposal was to create an online story called Limerence about a girl Clarice who forms romantic attachments to people she meets and stalks them across the internet. The idea was to create a working prototype in a month while documenting the development process through vlogs. The end result would be some sort of ‘Digital Writers Toolkit’ to help future writers who want to move into the digital realm.

Here’s one of the vlogs talking about the Limerence project

Tip one for digital writers plotting out non-linear storylines:

One of the most helpful tools I found to plot out non-linear storyline turned out to be Prezi – which I know is not what Prezi is intended for but it’s so intuitive to use and had the functionality to plan out branching narratives.

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Originally I tried to be clever and use Scrivener, Final Draft and all sorts of specific writing software. Eventually I just found Prezi the simplest software to use for what I needed (it is also free although there are upgrade options). After a lot of planning with my designer and programmer, we eventually got around to casting our lead characters…


The Voyeur


The hostess

The hostess


The Bros

The Bros


The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur


We even managed to film one of the videos that form part of the story…


RW 640×480 from Marianna Shek on Vimeo.

(Special thanks to my director Judy Yeh, Gregory Davis and James Warr)

One of the recurring questions that kept on coming up as I worked on Limerence was which part to develop first – the story or the media? My programmer of course kept on pushing me to work on the interactive elements that would make the user experience friendly. I wanted to work on the story as I believed it is the plot that keeps the reader engaged. It was a question I ended up putting to the experts. Here is the interview with digital writer Dr Jason Nelsen, filmmaker Sue Swinburne, scriptwriter Hugh Burton and game producer Gordon Moyes.

The end result from this residency was a great team effort and it highlights a work process that I think digital writers need to be aware of. Writers are precious about their work. I’m the first to admit I spend a lot of time plotting, editing, scratching out words that probably don’t matter to any of my readers but make a world of difference to me. Having to make a prototype in a month forced me to be less precious about my writing and to ‘see the forest for the trees’. Creating iterations on a project is something game designers would be familiar with but it’s not the usual work process for writers. However, I think if we are to move into the digital space, this is something we need to get better at. It’s not just about the writing anymore. Digital writing is balancing multi-modal elements – which require a more game production pipeline than traditional writing.

Here is a work-in-progress of Limerence. (You will need to install Unity Player to run it. Currently, it only works in Firefox, IE or Safari!)


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