Here, you'll find some description of the principles that we follow to write
and code the poems. I hope my description will help to clarify things a bit
and hold me accountable.
I haven't yet written a poem that accomplishes all that, but I hope I am on my
- Make chance a part of the mechanic. It is randomized which part of the
wordway the computer will start with, and which of the possible parts will be
called up when you click on a link. This allows for constant variety and
- Make choice a part of the mechanic. You get to choose which links you want
to click and which random chances you want to take. The poem asks the reader to
engage with it and make a decision every couple of lines, and the reader can
choose to follow a thread or an image that appeals to them. The combination
of choice and chance makes it so no two readers will get the same poem when
they click through a wordway.
- Make each part within a poem equivalent in terms of length, number of
links, and density of ideas. The surest way to do this, I found, was by
giving myself a limited amount of syllables in each line, a limited number of
lines/links in each part of a poem, and sticking to it. I felt this was necessary
to maintain a good rhythm and flow from section to section.
- Let association rather than linearity run the poem. There is no set
beginning, end, or middle to a wordway, so what matters more than a plot or
the development of an idea or point is the development of images and
patterns. I try and write so that over the course of a wordway, images and
patterns become stronger or more complicated.
- Write each part within a poem as a distinct, complete, and solid chunk.
The individual parts have edges: they come together like pieces in a jigsaw
puzzle or stitches in a carpet, and not like pancake mix and water in a bowl.
Each part is different from every other part it touches in where it comes
from, what it talks about, and where it goes.
- Treat the link words like they are rhymes. The links naturally form couplets
because when you click one, the poem part that will come up also has that
link, making two in a row that have it. Links will also pop up in interlaced
ways as well: if you begin, for example, on a part with the links A and B,
you might click on B, which brings up a part with the links B and C. Click on C,
and you might get to a part with the links A and C -- meaning that the A link
in the third part will rhyme with that in the first.
- Keep some of the poem hidden. On most of the wordways, a reshuffle button
will pop up after you have read a certain number out of the however many pieces.
This is to make sure that the poem is not overcrowded: it is easier to confidently
hold and remember three things in your brain than it is to hold six, and it
gets harder to hold six when there is not a story stringing them together.
The other reason for this is to incentivize re-reading and clicking that
reshuffle button. When you reshuffle, already-read pieces of the poem will
appear in different orders, and recombine with never-read pieces.
way to it!