Emily Short’s Bee

Bee is a work of interactive fiction by Emily Short. It operates much like a choose your own adventure where a series of options are given so you can choose where the story goes next. The premise is about a home-schooled girl trying to win the National Spelling Bee. Based on your choices, a bar on the left-side lets you know your progress with spelling skill, motivation, time, and your relationship to other people. There are four possible endings.

One of the most enticing parts of this work seems to be how well written it is. The story is very immersive and detailed, allowing you to learn not just about spelling bee training, but also about the other characters featured in the story as well as home-schooling and the religious background that often backs it.

While the details about the people and culture surrounding the home-schooling world are very rich and interesting to someone who has never experienced that lifestyle, at times it seemed to take away from the focus of competing in the spelling bee. While reading through, it seemed that either you could work to progress the plots surrounding the other families and characters you meet or you could focus on improving your spelling skill. I’m not sure if this suggests the choices someone has to make if they are going to compete in a spelling bee, showing how you have to sacrifice socialization for studying spelling and building other skills necessary for winning. I personally chose to put more focus on improving my skill than socializing, although I did not end up winning.

Even though I didn’t get the ending where she wins, the ending did not make it seem like I had lost and needed to start over and try to win. It merely phrased it as this is how life goes, which I think really speaks to how this work needs to be read like a book rather than played like a game.

  4 comments for “Emily Short’s Bee

  1. Gracie Draper
    February 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I had a lot of fun with your choice of work. I definitely agree with you that this reads much more like a novel and as a result feels like a pure interactive fiction piece as opposed to the more game-like creations (not that I have anything against those either). The multiple endings feature is awesome because it doesn’t feel like you’re trying to find the way to one particluar end and gives the illusion of reader agency wince you build your own story as you go. I would like to see which decisions were the turning points in pathways and were considered major pieces in the final outcome. I think through more playing around with the story and mapping paths it would be easy to find these turning points, much like life as you mentioned in your analysis.

  2. kmunnis
    February 3, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    The story map for Bee is probably incredible to look at. I agree that this is more like a second person interactive novel, however I would say the side bar is a game quality that enhances the experience. Because you’re given a role like in many games, and your decisions are being quantified to give you a status in certain areas. Most of the time it is possible to find a way to a certain ending, so I thought it was really interesting that it seems like you didn’t get the ending you were playing for, but it was a satisfying ending which just shows how real life never goes the way we plan because there is so much relying on external circumstance and it is in fact not a game.

  3. egajeton
    February 9, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    It’s very interesting to see the status bar changes on the left hand side. One thing that I found particularly different about this piece was how we were able to basically create our own character based on how we chose to continue throughout the story. For instance, I tried throughout the story to avoid the “church” storyline as much as I could to focus more on schoolwork and increasing my spelling skill. Consequently, I also tried to avoid doing family things as well, leading to the “annoying” levels on the status bar relating to Lettice and my parents. In doing so, I was able to create a character who was driven and motivated by the spelling bee. That made it hurt especially more when I didn’t win. The text-heavy aspect of the piece further enabled the plot and helped create the character. I also found it interesting that you were able to click on the same choices more than once. I viewed that as keeping the character from moving forward. Ultimately, I really appreciated how we were able to develop the character based on how we wanted the story to progress, and I wonder if anyone else found this to be the most intriguing part of the piece, and if not, what was your favorite part?

  4. February 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    This is a good descriptive analysis of a work I wasn’t familiar with, which is what I like to see in a blog entry! If I can push you a little bit, though, can you say more about where you write,

    I’m not sure if this suggests the choices someone has to make if they are going to compete in a spelling bee, showing how you have to sacrifice socialization for studying spelling and building other skills necessary for winning.

    That seems like a valid interpretation to me, so why aren’t you sure? Does the game leave that reading ambiguous? Is that ambiguity a consequence of your choices or of the text’s expository style?

    And since you conclude that this work needs to be read like a book and not played like a game, why do you think it uses a competition (Spelling Bee) as a framework?

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