Kinetic Novel

screenshot from A Taste of Honey

I found the country fair by accident, a splash of color in a drab little town on the back roads. I needed material to finish my photo essay before deadline, and a healthy dose of nostalgia was just what my client wanted. The sun was bright, the breeze gentle and warm. I snapped pictures like a machine, the motor drive on my Nikon whining softly as I captured every detail:

Click. Whirr…A little girl, beribboned in yellow and blue, face pink and sticky with cotton candy, ice cream cone dripping down her arm.

Click. Whirr…A rickety old carousel badly in need of new paint, horses valiantly galloping along their circular road to the glue factory.

Click. Whirr…A scruffy clown in patched overalls sitting on an overturned bucket, greasepaint melting, nursing a fat cigar.

Perfect. The old ladies at the magazine would love this stuff. It was Norman Rockwell to the nth degree. I switched to the wide-angle lens, training it on a line of rickety booths with hand-lettered signs advertising pies, and preserves, and honey.

Honey. “Regina Honey, Homemade With Love Since 1860. $5/Jar”

In 2008, I wrote a short story called A Taste of Honey, a light modern fantasy/romance about a photographer who stumbles upon something unusual at a country fair. Not long afterward, I discovered a storytelling form called the Visual Novel, an interactive, multimedia story with pictures and music that allows the reader to make choices that affect the outcome of the story. A Kinetic Novel is similar, but the interaction is limited, with no decision branches.

I thought A Taste of Honey was a good fit for the Kinetic Novel format, so I made some minor changes, modified the ending, and developed it into a script with accompanying pictures and music using the RenPy Visual Novel Engine. Since I’m a writer, not an artist, I enlisted the talented Ms. Lonnie Brandt, aka Vatina, who has built a few Visual Novels herself. She created a beautiful set of character images that convey a lot of the story’s emotion in a very simple way, which was exactly what I wanted.

So, here it is. The links below lead to a download page for three different versions of the package: Linux, Windows, and Mac. Download the appropriate package for your computer, extract the files using WinZip or some other file archiving/extracting utility, and run the executable (toh.exe for Windows, for Linux, Mac–not sure, but it should be obvious if you’re a Mac user) to start the story. It’s about 15-20 minutes long, depending on how fast you choose to step through it.

The story is free, and I encourage you to share it freely, but please give me a shout-out and link back to if you like it, and please don’t try to disassemble it or otherwise use the story, art, or photos within for other purposes.

Download Links for A Taste of Honey: (6 July 11: Links are repaired and files stored on a reliable server. If you had trouble downloading earlier, I apologize).

Linux version
Windows version
Mac version



2 thoughts on “Kinetic Novel

  1. Though the unorthodox use of real pictures in a visual novel was undoubtedly unsettling, I enjoyed the story and music quite a bit. While a taste of honey was nothing life changing, it was a quick but cute little romance that put a smile on my face, regardless of a few aesthetic shortcomings.

    I feel the need to note, however, that it you ever want to make something like this again, the exclusive use of drawn, 2D images is practically mandatory if you want veteran VN fans to take it seriously.

    1. Hi, Nathaniel!

      Yes, this was mostly an experiment for me, and I took a few shortcuts that allowed me put it together without much outside help. I’d like to try this again sometime with a more sophisticated story, but I’ll definitely need to assemble a team to bring the music and visuals together in a professional manner. I’m glad you enjoyed it, despite its flaws.


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