Forums » Writing Workshop » Read Thread

Toss around ideas and brainstorm your story.

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago

Motivation. An elusive thing. It has been a while since my last writing thread, so I figured I'd give it another go. Perhaps, it'll even help with catching the aforementioned elusive thing.


Trying to plan storygames has gone a bit off the rails for me recently, so I'll be trying something a little different.

I'm going to see if I can make a short story (split into parts for reading, writing, and convenience), and then (hopefully) turn it into a storygame.

Doing it this way means I'll have one concrete path to build off, which, while it will have some challenges, should save me a lot of trouble in regards to making something that fits together cohesively (assuming I do it right). It is also good to do because the scope will be much more controllable.

This does bring up some questions of if I'm writing the 'canon' path, and to that I'd say no, because the ultimate goal is still a branching story, and because of the approach I'm going with, this would involve not having a defined canon path.

Another big goal is to avoid over-planning, because it has gone pretty badly for me with some recent projects. With that said I do still plan on having some outline (albeit a very weak and broad one). As I have often typed, find what works for you. As such, by trying the more minimal approach to planning (which has given me success with some failed projects in the past), we can see if I was just less critical of what I was writing back then, or if this approach actually works for me better.

However, feel free to share your thoughts on planning! This can be a pretty big topic, so if you don't want to get into it, just a short description of your process can still be invaluable to others (especially me in this case) for getting ideas and learning.


I believe it has been talked about before, but might as well mention it again, especially considering this'll read like a linear story for the foreseeable future, which means thoughts on this could prove really helpful in the second stage.

I should mention that there are many ways to do this, so even if your approach is obvious to you, writing it out could prove more helpful than you'd expect. Also, the same thing as with the outlining applies here, you can keep it brief. In fact, being able to succinctly deliver valuable information is a great skill, especially in writing! Anyway, onto the question:

How do you decide where to put choices in your interactive works?


Finally, just a section to explain this thread a bit.

Orp is the story title. I hope it conveys the appropriate tone. It might not have enough meaning, which would lead to it being changed, but I can't think of anything yet.

I will be putting the story progress into this thread, which means there will be writing, and as such, feedback and thoughts are highly appreciated.

Other than that, I mentioned two specific things in this opening post, for you see, I've told people to ask for specific feedback far too often to not listen to my own advice. Granted, I was still rather broad with the questions, but the more tailored ones will come about when I finish this.

Happy reading!

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago


Irat steps out of his limousine dressed in his finest black suit. The white patchwork which lines his cuffs, collar, waist, and ankles is almost brighter than the marble pillars of the exclusive establishment he is approaching. The gold lettering above the five by five door up ahead holds little meaning to him, for he didn't come here because of the establishment, but rather because of the person who has invited him. With that said, it is a most fancy place.

Inside, amid the black, white, and gold, and the crimson, wood, and violet, sitting at a table on the reserved floor, in front of a sleek personal machine, is Laz.

"Ah, you're right on time!" the young man calls jovially.

Irat first gestures, as if brushing dust of his left shoulder, and his two guards leave him, and only then does he head over to the table Laz is sitting at.

"Of course I am, this chance meeting is quite lucky, I wouldn't disgrace it by being late! And to think, I almost didn't come to Singlonos at all, but the fact you are here makes me glad I did."

"Indeed? Chance must've conspired to have us meet," Laz says with a coy smile, temporarily turning his attention to his machine, typing away some command.

"Ah…yes, you inherited quite the information network from your father, didn't you? But surely you could just reach out if you wanted to talk?"

"Oh, you know about that."

"To think I wouldn't, I'm up there with the best of them! Besides, if Zene knows, I certainly do."

"Ah, I know Zene knows. He has some fun with it. Bloody idiot."

"Anyway," Irat interrupts, "I hope you didn't invite me here just as some sort of game, I was quite looking forward to us talking and sharing our views!"

"Clam down Irat. I wouldn't waste your time like that, nor mine. No, I did call on you with a purpose, a great one actually," he trails off.

"Fine, I'll bite, what o' great purpose caused you to call on me?"

After a moment of silence, Laz continues to speak, albeit more quietly, "Do you remember how my father talked of a great change to come?"

"Yes, quite vividly."

"Well, it is finally happening. Great change is on the way."

"Oh my, so the kinks have been worked out?"


"Extraordinary. I thought it would take longer…"


"Oh, certainly not. Just, I imagine some people would be quite upset finding out what you plan to do. It won't affect me adversely, but I must ask, who else have you informed?"

"No one else, and I don’t plan to. Those who can deal with it will, as they should have prepared for it. I'm only telling you because of your status, and because I figured that it'd be best if at least one person north of the Veather Sea knew when the thing to transpire would transpire." Elegantly put.

"Of course, that all makes sense. I'm still shocked at your accomplishment. Your father would be proud. I thank you for the information. It will definitely make the change easier to burden."

"Thank you, but I must say, parts of the way you're speaking makes me think you no longer wish for the change?"

"No, I do, I do. It is just that, I had some plans I was hoping to accomplish, and it will be much harder if the status quo was to…change beforehand."

"Is that so? Well, how much time do you need? I'm only informing you that everything is on track, but the change won't happen all that quickly. Two months, maybe three, I can keep you updated on the estimate."

"That is better, I will have time then…"

"What's the matter now? I'm being awfully nice as is…and surely you know of some of my recent activities: setting up wonderful accommodation for some of the unfortunates, relocating certain waste deposits, and more! Change is change, but it won't be some nightmare. I know what I am doing."

"That is fair, and I am content, for my plans will be accomplished. But I'm just wondering about all the people who fail to realise the reality that shall befall them. What about their plans? Things they'll never be able to finish. One of the greatest pains is that of something left undone. In the old stories, people would turn to ghosts or spirits if they died like that…it is a tragedy understood across cultures."

"Well, what do you propose? I cannot just tell them, things would spiral horribly!"

"No, I agree, that would be stupid, everyone would suffer. Change is change, but as you said, it won't be some nightmare. No, rather, I think you may wish to tell everyone when there is, say, a weeks' time left. That way they will have plenty of time to prepare, if they can, or make peace if they cannot. It is the more humane thing to do, I feel."

"Is that so?"

"Indeed. Any reason that telling them that in such a manner would cause complications?"

"Some things may need to be set up, certain sacrifices, but…it is doable. Let none say I am not compassionate!"

"None at all!"

"Thank you for this talk Irat, but I'm afraid I must go. I have lady friends to entertain," Laz says with a wink.

"Aha! You rascal. Yes, go on. I shall jaunt around these areas for a bit, seeing the wonderful locations here is worth even my time. I wish you luck with your pursuits."

"Thank you Irat, I hope we may converse again. One of my people will give you the device when you go to leave. The unlock password is Anul."

Irat gets up from the table, giving an appreciative nod to Laz before turning and heading the way he came, to the left. Once he is gone, Laz closes his machine, then leaves by another door, this one to the right.

The lights dim.

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/19/2019 4:23:25 PM

Disclaimer: I have not read the story yet, I am just commenting on this initial post.


I know what you mean about planning and over planning! I think that writing one main story line first is a good idea, if done in the right frame of mind. You need to put some thought into different paths and how different story lines will develop early in the process.

I wrote a story (my first) titled Clearstone. It had one one ending in mind, and the alternate branches suffered greatly for it. You can read the comment from Bill_Ingersoll for more details on that. I had some good  paths, but they all fixated on one ending. This made the story less interesting, and took away the feeling that the reader could have control. The choices didn't matter due to poor planning.

Here is what I have done to remedy this in my new story (that is not yet finished) titled Dark Master: 

Make a list of all the major plot points, events that happen regardless of the choices you make. For example, in my story you start as a loser who has no potential in magic. You then quickly discover that you you are extremely good at an illegal form of magic (dark magic). A choice changes how you find this out, but the major plot point is fixed. From there you are given the task of re-establishing dark magic in the world. How you can do this may have changed already by previous choices, but that is the goal.

After that you can do different things and go to different places, but I have a list of events and battles that happen. If you are not there, there is a fixed outcome. If you make a choice to be there you can change the outcome, and thus significantly change the story. For example, Faction A and Faction B are fighting: Faction A is way stronger, but you can single handedly destroy Faction A. If you are not there faction B is eliminated, but if you are there AND choose to help Faction B, you can reverse the outcome. Some of these events in my story happen at the same time, so you can only choose to change one item per play through.

This fixed plot assures my story has internal logic (a term I learned from Bill_Ingersoll). Now my readers have a change to significantly change the story in a pre planned manner that makes sense. They also can not see everything in just one play through making the make more interesting to replay. The details I leave for when I am actually writing, to avoid over planning. I can also alter my plan as I write, nothing is fixed in stone.

To keep myself on track I may just make a block diagram that goes from event to event, and shows where the story can branch. This diagram can include the choices that lead to the different paths. This might look like:

1. Todd is a loser who cant use magic

a. he talks to an old friend who is good a magic

b. he turns angry and sets out to get good at magic by any means necessary

2a. Todd's friend helps his discover he is good at dark magic, but he fears it because it is illegal.

2b. Todd discovers he is good at dark magic, and is angry at the world for outlawing the one thing he is good at

Hopefully that conveys the idea.

The issue with writing a CYOA story that starts with only one path is that you may get attached to the one path. That may make it hard to make the other paths. I had an example with a romance story I wanted to write. Currently this is a novel I am writing on paper with one path. I thought up some alternate lovers and paths. I dislike the thought of the reader making a choice that leaves the main lover and main story line though. As a result, the story will likely be a CYOA.

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago

Those are some good points.

I'll set about planning just a little bit more, to figure out the major plot points & events so that the relevant sections lend themselves better to branching out.

Having the reader able to change the expected outcome of events is a neat way of implementing it, since I imagine that can feel really impactful, especially if the storygame is played through multiple times, where the reader can see things turn out differently.

Thanks for sharing!

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago

If anyone can figure out planning please tell me before I blow my brains out, lol. I just started in on my story again after a long break and hey I'm still having all the same problems as befrore! I have two plots right now that branch off the first page, but only two segments of exploring an area and talking to someone where adding choices evey single page makes any sense. 

The problem is that every single choice changes the story...and yes yes I know, NO SHIT!!!  But I can't come up with that many different plots and I don't want all the choices to be whether you stop at a gas station for lunch or not. I've gotten attached to this story idea and don't want to abandon it, but I just can't see how to make it work as a CYOA.

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago
Ah yes, I have answered any and all questions that can or will ever arise about CYOA stories and planning in this article. Read that and all your worries will go away!

Well, seriously, there's so many different ways to go about writing this type of story, it's hard to describe even where to start. Do check out that article, it might give you a few hints about how I've approached this issue. Also, that article links to another site that talks about standard patterns in choice-based stories. Those aren't there to limit you, but to get you to thinking about how you want your story to go and where you want it to lead.

One of the great difficulties in writing the CYOA is that it is NOT a typical story. If you have just one story and one plotline, that's a nice story, but that's not a CYOA. So I would suggest that if you have one particular plot that you really like, see if you can come up with a few variations, perhaps even side-variations. For example

Maybe in your story, the guy doesn't get the girl. Maybe there isn't even a girl. Okay, so variation one you add a girl. Variation two has the guy getting the girl. Variation three has the guy NOT getting the girl. Meanwhile, the rest of the story stays intact, this just adds a new dimension to it.

Maybe in your story, the good guy wins. Can you make a variation where the good guy loses? Is there another variation where no one wins or loses? Can there be different levels of how the good guy wins?

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago

Endmaster made a wonderful post about this. You can create a few fake choices that don’t actually change the story. Like, for example, if you stop and get a sandwich there’s a page about eating it then getting back on the road. The not eating a sandwich page just skips the page about it. This example seems pointless, but you can create a bunch of paths that tie in ay a common point to continue. You can also make choices that lead to a quick ending. If you call the real estate agent the story continues, if you don’t a piano falls on you and kills you. Of course, you also can have pages that do not have two choices. Not everything is a choice.

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago
Damn, I managed to completely miss this thread somehow. I'm working on something right now but I'll try and sit down with some thoughts on planning and structure later, those are two of my favorite topics ever. (They come right behind babbling about settings I'll never get around to writing a story about...)

Orp - Planning & Choices & Writing

2 years ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/24/2019 6:44:54 PM
Ok, just looking at the main theme of what you're suggesting and one of your questions: "How do you decide where to put choices in your interactive works?" So I'll provide my answer to that question under the terms that you've outlined: that you're looking at a story with a concrete path with separate parts. Also without too much planning, but with a relatively linear story. With that in mind: I think you're looking at a story that is primarily a linear story (as you mentioned) that might follow the classic gaunlet pattern. The other pattern similar to that might be the branch and bottleneck, but that one usually involves a LOT of planning and coordination. So if you're looking at a gauntlet, you're looking at choices that are really one of two types: death or minor choices. So you might have obvious death and endings, such as walking off a cliff, dying in an explosion, or something like that. But you could also have "death" endings that result in a clearly wrong choice and the player has to back up: a dead-end of sorts. While those aren't always the most entertaining types of endings, they can be (see my Alien Abduction story). But where you might have more success is with minor choices. While these might not have a direct impact on the story, they can be additions to the story and things that happen that make the story more interesting. These are things that aren't always thought of in story development because they are bad if you are writing a novel. In a novel you want the story to lead from point a to point b because that's all there is to the story. But with the CYOA you want to take that path from point a to point b and make it more interesting and optional. As I mentioned above, you could add in a romantic interest. That doesn't have to change the story, it could just add a piece to it. You could put a few splits at the ending with the final choice so that the actual ending has four different levels of endings, depending on that final choice. You could add a side path that happens when there is a delay in the main path (bad weather on a trip?). You could add a choice that leads to just learning more about something else in the story's background that doesn't actually change the story itself, but gives more meaning to it. All of these (and plenty more) are ways to just add to the single story that you're defining. You also asked about where to put choices -- of course, that depends on what you've decided to do with your path(s). For me, and this is likely just a personal opinion, and a reflection of the readers on this web site, I usually like to put a choice in after number of words. Not a specific number of words, but if I'm looking at around 800 words for a page and that page is a complete idea, it's time for a choice or option. Of course, if you do much of that without planning, you're going to find yourself with pages and pages of options and lots of extra writing that you didn't think you'd have! At the same time, there are times when those choices don't make sense. I'm working on a longer-ish story now, and I think the story starts out with about 6 pages that are around 1,000 words each without a choice. Now I know that when I get around to publishing that, I'm going to get complaints about not enough choices at the start, but those are clear scenes with differences between the scenes that logically make sense for me to break up -- so I'm going to do it because it makes sense to me. But if you plan a little first, maybe the main path, then decide on a few side paths, it might be more obvious where those choices are going to end up. Hope this helps!