Hyperfiction (or hypertext) has been described as an alternative to ‘the authoritarian linearity of conventional book-contained text.’ In reality a number of choices are given to the reader (sometimes referred to in the more iconoclastic descriptions as the ‘co-conspirator'). These choices are made at key – or other – moments in the on-line text where a click will take the reader to an alternative narrative or ‘textual space’ (including sound, animation, 3Dmodelling graphics and the like).

In the more complex and arcane versions of hyperfiction it is quite possible that the reader will never come back to the point in the narrative that they first clicked, and their narrative experience will have been completely different to a reader who chose not to click at the same point. (For an example, try www.grammatron.com). In simpler forms – which, it is proposed, are more suitable and helpful for language learners – background texts to characters, places and events can be explored, and the reader can be invited to help complete parts of the missing narratives, or alternative narratives.

This is already beginning to sound complicated. It is, however, a disarmingly simple technique to use, and one, we believe, that has enormous teaching and learning potential. The best way to introduce you to the world of hyperfiction is to give you a small sample...

The popular writer of children’s stories, Louise Cooper, has offered her very short story ‘The Cabin Boy’ to be used as the base text for a simple experiment in hyperfiction. If the reader wishes, the story can be read as a simple narrative – end of story (literally).  However, the reader is also given various options to click and see where this leads. One of the joys of hyperfiction is that they can be added to at any time.

Read 'The Cabin Boy'

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