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What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
The stories I've been trying to work on, including my contest entry, The Ghost People, tend to follow how your actions affect something that is already going to happen. For example, in The Ghost People, one of the characters goes mad and ends up killing another character. That happens no matter what. But who that other character is depends on what you do.

Another example of this kind of choice, call it a "passive" choice, is this: say in the story you are running from people, and say you hide in a bathroom. If you weren't involved in the story, the person who follows you in the bathroom is going to be interrupted by a radio call from a colleague. That radio call will happen no matter what, because it is entirely outside the hands of the player (you). But, if you (choice 1) decide to hide in the ceiling in the bathroom, just before the radio call comes, you will fall through to the ground. When the call comes, he will then say that he's found you, and you'll be arrested. If, on the other hand, (choice 2) you decide to hide in a bathroom stall, then before he gets to your stall he will get the radio call, and then he will leave, with you being undiscovered.

These "passive" choices are most of all I've put in the story I published and the other couple I've been working on. However, there is another way of doing it that I've seen here. This other type of choice, the "active" choice, I'll call it, completely changes the direction of the story. There is no set events that you impact by your choice. Instead, your choices simply cause an entirely different direction of events to unfold.

For example, say you are in a magic school, and if you choose to study Nature magic, you will be transferred to a school in the Elvin forests. From there, you will have to help those people deal with a false claimant to the throne, go into a cavern and recover an artifact from a clan of vampires. If, on the other hand, you choose to study weather magic, you will be shipped off to a human city, where you will work with the king to help a siege defense, and help defeat an invading army. Finally, if you choose to study Necromancy, you will journey to a far away coven in the deep, dark, swamps to the south. You will ensnare local villagers for human sacrifices in evil ritualistic magic, and after rising through the ranks, will unleash a plan to destroy all life. (btw maybe I'll make a story based on this, haha)

As you can see in this other kind of choice, what happens in the world is not even remotely determined (in the sense that you're just reacting to events that would happen regardless of what choice you make, with your choice only having a minor result on what occurs). These "active" choices basically spawn entirely different stories for you to follow, while the "passive" choices just make you weave and twist through one single main story.

While writing this it occurred to me that having both types would be great, but as I said I've so far only experimented with the first, with one tiny exception in The Ghost People (but even that just gives two different pathways to the same goal- whether you immediately climb down the mountain or stay up high to avoid the Terror Birds).

So which type do you prefer and why? What kind of insight or advice to you have on crafting choices and merging them into a solid story?

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
Both have their place, but one or the other being preferable would be dependent on the situation. In real life most people deal with a combination both. Choose a college and you have to move to wherever it is, vastly changing the direction of your life. Minute by minute decisions are still being made regardless though and you have no control over the actions of those around you.

I don't think of it as passive or active, since passive has negative connotations. Consistent vs inconsistent world and NPC agency is what it is in my mind.

I like to write (and read) stories set in a consistent world, although neither of your examples rule that out. I mean, I'm not seeing how your 'active' examples are meaningfully different from the passive ones. The character is making a choice that determines the direction their life will take. And events presumably still play out the same in the human city regardless of if the character is off in the elven forest and not in a position to become involved or even hear about it.

Now if you were in the human city and the army didn't arrive at all on account of you doing something completely unrelated (robbing the treasury and scampering off to join the thieves guild, deciding that your life's calling is to become a baker instead, whatever) then that would be a major flaw IMO.

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
Maybe perpendicular versus skew would be better? Obviously perpendicular would be choices that dive off into a completely different direction. I do think with a "perpendicular" branch of the story it is more entertaining if in passing the character hears of what happened in the other perpendicular branches. A consistent world is definitely more immersive, but you can only know if it is a consistent world if there is some sort of communication between the branches of the story with a huge distance between them. Anyway, thanks for the insight.

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
To answer your primary question, a question: "Why are you writing?"

I ask that because it really does affect the answer. Also, realize that, especially on this site, there are vast, vast differences in opinion on stories. I don't think there's two people here who like exactly the same thing. Some people like a huge number of pathways and options, some people don't care. Some people prefer character development even if there's no options at all. It really does vary. In fact it varies so much that I imagine you won't get two people even in this thread to agree on what you should write!

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
In that case then I'll have to default to what I like, which is above all else an immersive and entertaining plot. For me, different outcomes being in the story just to be there isn't very fun. I'd rather there be a single ending but interesting events than a chaotic story with multiple endings that doesn't really give the reader a world to get lost in.

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
What I'm not getting about your posts is the assertion that 'more adventures to choose in a choose your own adventure' equals a story being less interesting, immersion, and entertaining.

Everything you claim is good about having a single ending does not somehow become automatically bad if done multiple times instead. 'Fighting off a siege is great and becoming a necromancer is great...but both options available to the same character? Wow fuck that.'

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
Maybe you're right. Trying to write branching stories is pretty new for me. I have my own preferences, but mainly for me it doesn't really matter how many adventures you have in one branch as long as the story is good. The major downside I see with multiple awesome stuff in one branch, though, is that (I imagine) you end up having to have a lot more good ideas in order to have a quality story for those other branches.

Part of the reason for this thread is to kind of figure out what people like here so I can adapt my writing. I'm not really trying to state any one thing is better than another. So what do you prefer with respect to this topic?

What kind of choices/branching do you prefer?

5 months ago
Indeed, writing a choose-your-own-story is, in my opinion, a completely different world of writing. You will find some writers who really don't get that and who simply write a completely story, then cram in a couple choices, just to make it a CYS. Often those choices don't affect the story at all. Some readers absolutely hate that, but others like the complete story.

Other writers will add in the death paths -- you get plenty of choices, but once again you get one main story and as soon as you veer off the main path, you end up dead. Some readers hate that, too; while a few don't mind.

Then you will find the occasional story that actually has branching and has a number of different possible actual stories with completely different plots and endings. These are actually quite rare because it requires the writer to write a huge number of completely different stories -- and actual choices mean the reader only gets to see a small portion of what the writer writes. These, IMO, are the true CYS stories, but they are very hard to find and even harder to write.

For an example of the words -- I wrote a simple story, The Adventures of Rory Thorn in math class. There are 32 paths in that story (that all happen to lead to the same end, just because). There are around 16,000 words in the story. However, because of the branching, when someone reads the story, they will only see around 3,000 words. That means 13,000 words that I wrote simply aren't going to get read by the average reader. And a 3,000 word story is really short.

But that story was written for a specific reason in a specific way. To expand that to a full length story would be absolutely massive!