you prefer, you can read these notes in
is hypertext and why are kids good at it?
Kids on the Net Guide to Writing a Hypertext Story - The Planet
the story itself
Method for the project
is hypertext and why are kids good at it?
by Helen Whitehead, Editor, Kids on the Net, http://www.kidsonthenet.com
you come across one of those books that invite you to "choose
your own adventure"? The original ones were by Steve Jackson,
but there are other versions now, including R L Stine's Goosebumps
series - "Give Yourself Goosebumps".
these types of books you make a decision at the bottom of each
page, and depending on how you choose ("Do you fight the
goblin or run away?"), you turn to a different page. So
there's an exciting feeling (at least for a youngster!) that
you're controlling the story yourself.
can do that, too. It can give you - the reader - choices, and
all you have to do is click to go there.
course on a Web page there can be a lot more than two choices.
If you've used the Web you've seen it for yourself. You can
have any number of links on a single web page, each one taking
you to other parts of the page, the website, or other websites.
text on each linked page should (if the website is properly
designed) follow logically from a point on the first page, so
it isn't like flipping through pages of a book at random. Clicking
links takes you on a path through the website, a path on which
you click rather than step. The path should read coherently,
logically and consistently all the way through (whether it's
a shopping trip through a catalogue to purchase or an exploration
of deeper levels of a topic such as WWI trenches or repairing
classic cars). You can step off the path onto another one whenever
you like (start investigating WWI transport or classic aeroplanes
instead), and if you return to the site another time, you can
take a completely different route.
good hypertext writer (or web site designer) will think about
the navigation of the site - the way you get from place to place
- as part of the writing process. If the hypertext is fiction
like those choose-your-own-adventures - as opposed to the commercial/nonfiction
sites we've been talking about up until now - the link should
be an integral part of the story.
of the simplest forms of hypertext uses just that choose-your-own-adventure
structure. It's called a "tree fiction" because the
story constantly branches. In this kind of story, the number
of endings multiplies every time a new branch is created, so
with one start, even with only two choices at each branch, after
four choices there are 16 alternative endings.
we are taught to write in a linear manner: every story must
have a beginning, a middle and an end. We are taught writing
techniques such as foreshadowing and development of character
from beginning to end of a piece. In nonfiction we are told
to introduce our subject at the beginning, discuss the points
one by one and then summarise at the end. All these are linear
techniques, designed for a reader who starts at the beginning
and reads through to the end.
doesn't necessarily work like this. It's more intuitive, allowing
the reader to follow their inclination, to the read the story
or text in a way that seems logical to them. Of course that
means there are many more challenges for the writer.
who haven't yet fallen into linear ways of writing are quick
to see the potential for branching stories and other ways of
linking their own and others' writing together.
an example of a choose-your-own-adventure type hypertext, see
Daisy and the Intergalactic
Travelling Salesmen at http://www.kidsonthenet.com/daisy on the
Kids on the Net website
The Kids on the Net Guide to Writing
a Hypertext Story - The Planet of Dreams
the story itself
Planet of Dreams is designed to have four chapters in each reading
(which, allowing for the alternative chapters, means 14 chapters
altogether). Chapter One has been
written by children's author David Clayton. (A downloadable
printable version is available in Word format.)
with the class about the structure of a story. The setting is
a new planet, and the main characters are a group of children
coming to the planet to make a new home.
story should have a beginning (this is Chapter
One) a middle (chapters 2 and 3), and an end (chapter 4).
The chapters in the middle should be written as some kind of
adventure. The final chapter should tie up any loose ends and
finish off the story with a good ending.
David Clayton's own ideas for the story development run as follows
- this is just an example, and you are free to do whatever you
and your class wish with the storyline. This is a four-chapter
2: The children split up, some make part of the
city into their old lives, houses. Others explore the huge
city meeting new people. They explore how they can recreate
their dreams and nightmares.
3: The more adventurous new children get into new danger
sledging on the shiny ice-cold silver slopes beyond the city
and beyond the protection of the glass. Meanwhile the 'conservative'
planet children in the newcomers' recreated old world face
an old danger, wild animals created by imagination but no
cages, an open park but with tigers, lions and crocodiles.
The new children outside are rescued just in time from the
blazing light of the five orange suns of Karoo by their local
friend who has warned them not to stay out long.
4: When the outside group get back they seek out the others,
the planet children, and dream the old danger away for them
i.e. getting rid of the lions etc. They are seriously frightened
by the experience with the lions and tigers etc. They all
settle into their new home/school but just as they relax -
a lion appears at the door. How can this be? But the creature
turns back into one of their local friends who laughs. 'We
too have dreams,' he says. 'Welcome to Karoo!'
adds: "This idea is very open-ended as children can imagine
anything they like for the settlers' dreams of their pasts.
i.e, houses, game parks, swamps, caves, mines, involve themselves
in any outside danger on the planet (creatures, invaders, activities
etc), have the local children involve themselves in any way
they like in exploring the past (as in the mines above), have
the new children rescued in any way they like from danger (created
by the new children, e.g., creatures, invaders, activities etc)
by local adults and settle into any conditions they choose:
old, new or a combination. The rule is, if you dream it up,
on the planet, you alone can wish it away otherwise there is
no threat. Other people's dreams can cause you trouble. (Unless
you have a Dream Master who can police everyone's dreams to
stop things getting out of hand!)"
can have children work individually, in pairs, or in groups,
depending on the number of children involved in producing the
14 chapters. Some children could produce illustrations for the
story. (See below for more advice on illustrations.)
on how long you have to do the project and divide it up so that
each stage - the writing of chapter two, of three and of four,
gets the same amount of time (sequentially) and enough time
to get comments and redraft. For example, two days to write
and one day to redraft at each stage is a total of 9 days for
all three stages.
always best to sketch out ideas on paper, then type the story
and edit it in a word processor, and only when it is as good
as it can be, transfer it to the Web form.
if included, should be produced on a computer, or scanned into
a computer. Pictures should have no coloured background if possible
and be in clear, bright colours (e.g., felt tip rather than
colouring pencil). They should be saved as JPEG format .jpg
files, given identifiable filenames and emailed to email@example.com
as attachments, with the body of the message indicating the
artist for each picture. Do NOT use WordArt to produce pictures
as they do not tranlsate into a web-visible format. Most scanning
programs have a facility to save as .jpg files.
to write chapters and links
section should be no more than about 500 words (and could be
very much less!). Readers on the Web don't want too much text
at a time.
End each section as openly as possible. Don't end it, e.g.
and tigers appeared all around them. "What shall we do
now?" asked Emily, frightened.
they run away or stay and fight the animals?
limit the imaginations of the following writers. Try to end
it more openly with more possible courses of action:
the golden river a strange sight was unfolding. "Whatever's
that?" breathed Ahmed.
are other examples of "open" endings in the Daisy
and the Intergalactic Travelling Salesmen story.
last thing to write, when each chapter is complete, is the link
text. Read the previous chapter again, and think about what
word or short phrase would take the reader into the next chapter.
The reader is going to have to choose between two links, so
you want your link to be attractive enough to make them click,
but not give too much away.
children go skiing
something more intriguing like
snowy adventure or
on the slopes
will encourage the reader to choose your chapter. It's like
the cliffhanger at the end of the episode! Up to three or four
short words is a good length for a link in this story.
Method for the project
One: read a hypertext story
Read online with the class some hypertext stories that have
choices. This is a good activity for a computer lab where the
children can read the stories themselves and explore what happens
when they click on different links. Examples include:
Two: Read Chapter One and discuss the story
Chapter One of The Planet of Dreams, written by David Clayton.
Display the page on
screen or use the printable version
here. Discuss the structure of the story and how it might
at the flow chart for the story.
It is important that you, the organiser, are clear from the
start who is writing which chapter and allocate a code 2A, 4D
or whatever. It helps to write the names of the authors on the
flowchart. When the stories are saved on computer, use the codes
2A etc. in the filenames for quick identification. Keeping track
of which story links to which is the worst job, so assigning
them the right code throughout is vital. Then you just need
to keep the flow chart to hand.
Three: Writing Chapter Two
All the children cannot write their stories at once, as some
will have to wait for the others to be produced. First set two
children or groups to produce a Chapter Two. Alternatively you
could write one or both Chapter Twos collaboratively with the
class. Once each chapter is written it should be commented on
by the teacher and other children, rewritten if necessary, and
the link text written.
4: Writing Chapter Three
Once the Chapter Twos are ready, chapter 2A is passed to two
more children/groups and Chapter 2B is passed to two children/groups.
Each child or group will read the two chapters leading up to
the one they will write - Chapter Three. To the writers, the
story is linear, and they probably should not know what is happening
in the other branches of the story until the whole thing is
complete. Chapter Threes are written, commented on and redrafted
until as good as possible. Each group writes the link text that
will lead into their Chapter Three.
5: Writing Chapter Four
Finally, each completed Chapter Three, with its preceding Chapter
Two and a reminder of Chapter One, is passed to two more children/groups.
Now there are eight groups working at once, two for each version
of Chapter Three. Each group reads the sequence of Chapter One,
Chapter Two and Chapter Three, and produces a fourth and final
chapter wrapping up the story. It is commented on and redrafted.
This may take the most redrafting to make sure that all the
threads in the previous chapters are picked up on.
6: Entering the story on the website
When all the chapters are finished, the teacher, or a child
or group, or even a helpful assistant or parent, can cut and
paste the texts into the web
form on the website. Care needs to be taken to put each
piece of text into the correct box on the form. Refer to the
flow chart to help with this. Send any illustrations to firstname.lastname@example.org
as email attachments.
8: Test the story
Once all the texts have been accurately entered, test your hypertext
story by looking at the URL http://www.kidsonthenet.com/hypertext/story.htm
(This will not be activated until your story has been entered).
If you can't see it - please contact email@example.com and we'll
make sure it's published for you. This won't be immediately
but with this project we aim for a 24 or 48 hour turnaround
- bear in mind that we work in a UK time zone!
9: Launch the story
If the story works, you can now show it off! If there is a problem
and the story doesn't appear as you would expect, or does not
follow on in the way you intended, contact
and we will sort out any technical hitches via email.
the Hypertext Story Project
is just one possible structure for a hypertext - indeed, the
very simplest structure.
point of web-writing is that it doesn't have to be linear. You
can have a story with different kinds of branches, some of which
are dead ends, so the reader has to go back and start again.
You can use other features of the Web to add interest to stories.
Alternative endings - where there is one beginning, then everyone
in the class writes a possible ending. On the Web, the reader
would be able to select a link or perhaps a click a button
allowing the computer to select a random ending from among
a geographically based story "game" like Pirates'
Booty. (Note: there is a new tool being developed to enable
this Adventure Island story to be automated - contact us if
you would like to know more.)
a story from different points of view. Have everyone write
the beginning of a story from a particular character's viewpoint
(e.g., arriving at a haunted house) and then write one middle
of the story collaboratively together (the ghosts appear and
cause mayhem) then the children can each write an ending from
their characters' point of view (see Over
the Rainbow for an example).
a collection of stories or poems or features on a single
and link them with a front page theme graphic, such as a
map (e.g. for stories set in parts of a desert island),
(see Farewell to MGB) or a string of
lamps perhaps (which would suit a series of poems about Diwali).
of the quilt or areas of the map would bring up the individual
pieces. By writing collaboratively in this way the whole
becomes more than the sum of the parts, and it's an attractive
way to present a collection of writing on a theme.
on the Net does not have templates (yet - but watch this space!)
for these types of stories, but if you need help in transferring
your stories into web pages, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
- can you continue the story?