Mountain, Animal, Reader, Writer

Today’s short fiction experiment is brought to you by the wonders of online personality quizzes. I’ve been thinking a lot about the reader as an active participant and critic, rather than a passive victim or audience member. This morning I was chatting about this notion on Twitter, apropos yet another article about whether the internet is killing novels.

As an enthusiastic reader of both Serious Novels and the internet, these articles bug me. The novel was never a broadcast medium in the first place; it’s always invited active participation, and writers who are afraid of the internet are afraid of the subjectivity of readers. Since I made this point better on Twitter, and other writers contributed much to the discussion, I’ve Storified the conversation here.

As well as being an interesting formal challenge for me – I really didn’t know whether a story/quiz was possible – I thought that writing in the form of a quiz would be a way to play with these ideologies around reading stories and what stories are for, while inviting the kind of participation that the internet invites from readers. So please comment and share your results and reactions! Here it is:

mt. animal

Mountain, Animal

The story was written in the free quiz-making software, which had many limitations. The “questions”/paragraphs were quite limited in length, but the form itself also presented challenges. I tried writing a clearer and more deterministic quiz, but it didn’t work as fiction. I then tried working from a clear and sensible piece of fiction, but that didn’t work as a quiz. The result is a fairly simple and light story which in quiz form offers a layer of metafictional analysis. The results the story is looking for are not at first clear – there’s no explicit question. But stories always pose questions of their own, however vaguely they encroach. Your results will be about what you expect from stories, and how you read. In each of the four results available, Mountain, Animal will fail to meet your expectations.


29 thoughts on “Mountain, Animal, Reader, Writer

  1. awax1217

    Reminds me of the blind men and the elephant. It depends where you are and your perspective. We all look at things differently. An egg is food, unfertilized or a chicken of the future. Or is it?

  2. pezcita

    It’s easy to look at this illustration from many different angles, and my take on it was probably not what you were aiming for. I draw a comic strip here on WordPress and am trying to use my limited drawing skills creatively. (For my best attempt to date, see Eventually, I hope to create a panel or sequence that you really have to look at twice. The above not only demands a second view, but also encourages each person who looks at it to form their own opinion of what it’s trying to say. Bravo!

  3. Meaning and Mindfulness and Red Rabbit Skills

    My result: Imagination. Fiction is predominantly about dragons. By which you mean metaphors. By which you mean dragons. Congratulations, all thought is language and all language metaphor.

    Mountain, Animal was written by Jennifer Mills as Australia’s Digital Writer in Residence,

  4. chrishillauthor

    Personally I find the idea the Internet will kill literary fiction extremely unlikely, I blogged about Will Self’s recent article to that effect recently. I think those who believe the novel is on the way out are really looking at the demise of the old publishing hierarchy and mixing that up with the product it produces and promotes.

  5. thejoshgreesonbachshow

    This post definitely made me think. I don’t think the internet (and stuff like this quiz) will kill novels, because it gives such a different experience from reading a novel. I think the internet (and stuff like this quiz) might make it take longer for people to get into reading novels or reading as many novels, because they’ll be busy with this kind of stuff instead. But I think the people who would have ended up as novel-readers will find their way there in the end anyway.

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