Her Campus (HC): So, you are going to school, is that right? What is your focus in it?
Sophia Ulbl (SU): I’m currently doing a double degree on the master’s level. My majors are German Studies and Media Studies.
HC: What do you plan to do after you graduate?
SU: I want to continue working as a freelancing author for Interactive Storytelling platforms. I plan on expanding things that are connected with my author activities such as doing a Ph.D. in another country, preferably in the anglophone area.
HC: What exactly is Episode Interactive?
SU: Episode Interactive is an app-based storytelling platform where users have the possibility to read animated interactive stories in which they can play as—most likely—themselves, similar to a RPG (roleplaying game). RPGs games allow gamers to dive into the roles of, for example, real people or fictitious characters. The stories on the app are very different from one to the other. Sometimes they are very narrative and sometimes not. The interactivity displays in various choices the readers can choose from. Sometimes they allow readers to change the whole personality of the main character, other times they can define which love interest they end up with or which will be shown in mini-games. How an interactive story ends, however, is up to the author. Episode is the leading interactive storytelling platform with over 7 billion read episodes and 12 million registered authors. Next to that—and that’s what makes Episode attractive to a lot of people as well—is that it allows everyone to be a story creator themselves with the possibility to get paid once a certain milestone is achieved. The platform allows aspiring writers to get paid for what they love to do the most.
HC: What do you find to be the hardest difference you experience writing traditionally versus interactive writing?
SU: The hardest difference is most likely the impact of the interactivity itself that is placed inside the story. Readers usually expect choices to be very impactful, which makes it a lot more time consuming to actually write a chapter as an author. This is because, first of all, point systems—that are usually how the branching can be calibrated in an Episode story—have to be well thought out. Second, writing different branches takes more time than simply writing one path, which can be very demotivating and exhausting from time to time.
HC: What kind of stories do you write? Why did you pick that genre?
SU: I preferably write in the fantasy genre because not only can fantasy be mixed with a lot of subgenres without being forced, but it also feels less limited to me than other genres do. I like to create new worlds with new races, new surroundings, new cultures and new rules, and fantasy seems to allow me all of that and even more.
HC: What’s your most favorite and least favorite thing about interactive writing?
SU: The thing I love the most about interactive writing is that it doesn’t give the option to just write a story, but to write a game, which makes every plot more intriguing and the reader a part of the world you created. It gives me a good feeling to really share something and experience my own journey with my story and world creations with others. My least favorite thing is probably the long amount of time branching takes. The longer it takes the more demotivating it is.
HC: And lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there, interactive or not?
SU: It may just seem like a cheesy phrase, but I recommend never stop dreaming. Usually, society tells us to aim for more conservative or stable career goals which demotivates the writer and the creativity inside of us. Don’t let society take away your dreams, use your dreams to write your stories. It may be a hard and long path, but in the end, isn’t it worth being able to do what you have always wanted instead of going with what the masses expect you to do? Everything can be achieved, as long as you work hard enough for and on it.
This is why Sophia is not only one of the authors I look up to, but also one of my closest friends. A huge thank you to Sophia for agreeing to this short interview and sharing her feelings on writing (both interactive and not). To read her stories, you can check out her Instagram @sopho.episode.