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Struggles with finishing

one month ago
I'm in a dilemma with a project I've been working on in various places for years, and so I've come back here to get some thoughts on it. I know I can always trust this community to be honest.

Just for a little background, my game, The Dryad's Revenge, was started for a contest run here where the stories were supposed to be written for a different site. I wrote 11,000 words there but didn't nearly finish, and later my account was hacked and all my work deleted which demoralized me for awhile.

Then I got inspired enough to start over with plans to publish it here, and IMHO the new version was even better. I did during the process though decide to turn it into a novel to post on another site for feedback. Nothing against this place, but adding branching every couple of pages to an already big project is just HARD.

But by now I've stopped using that other site over a dislike of the community (basically you have to write bland good girl/bad boy romance to get any attention at all) which might be for the best because in my head, there were always four "canon" endings, and just tacking on one for a linear story would leave it incomplete. A well as taking away moral agency that should come from the reader.

So the state of things now is that I have a novel length single path, and three other main endings in mind. I know simply choosing branching for the last section isn't good enough for a CYS story, but I'm completely daunted by the thought of adding a NEW choice and a continuation of that every two or three pages.

I literally have worked on this for years and after all that I NEED to finish it in some form before moving on. I'm not sure if anyone can really help me, but some advice or encouragement would be appreciated. I see that people finish big projects here all the time, tell me you're secrets lol.

Struggles with finishing

one month ago
An idea to add choices, if you like: Branch and bottleneck. You can add choices that might lead towards one the endings, but the choices end up coming back to one point. A simplistic example would be a person standing on a road, trying to get to the other side of town. They could go left, straight, or right. Each choice could be for a certain reason; each choice could have different consequences. In the end, no matter which choice was made, the person would end up on the far side of town. Hopefully the choices will have some effect on the later game (found a shovel when going left, made a friend when going right, etc.) Have fun!

Struggles with finishing

one month ago

I definitely advise listening to Ogre. He has lots of experience when it comes to struggles with finishing. ^_^

Struggles with finishing

one month ago
It only happened that one time, really!

Struggles with finishing

one month ago
Sounds to me like you’ve done most of the hard work already. You’ve completed the center of the story. If you’ve done that, starting and stopping again, losing progress and rewriting, then you can handle branching. You should know the characters and world quite well. You will be able to discover what alternatives might exist. It is a mistake to arbitrarily force a branch every so many pages. Instead, look through your own work and begin asking questions. Whenever you come across a very interesting question, "what happens if…" there I think, you should branch, and nowhere else. At least to start. If you begin by branching just for the sake of branching you create work for the sake of work. If your writing feels burdensome, and uninteresting, to you as you make it, then the reading of it might be also. Determine what you are interested in doing, and do that. That’s the best advice I can give. Viewing featured stories here, the number of choices, how far apart they are, and how impactful they are individually, varies widely. I know of no authoritative precedent.

Struggles with finishing

one month ago

Here are a few possible methods you could use:

1. False choices

This is kind of similar to what Ogre mentioned, but in addition to what was said, you could add choices that wouldn’t change much besides adding a few lines of flavor text. However, do use this sparingly since too many impactless choices might make readers feel as if their decisions don’t matter in the storygame. One way to work around this would be to change minor parts of some scenes or the ending based on these choices (for instance, the main ending could have a sentence where, depending on who the protagonist chose to save in a battle, the name of their best friend is altered).

Another thing you could do would be to add links for extra information. Whether it’s a small foreshadowing detail to solidify a plot twist, a minor location you weren’t sure whether to add in an earlier draft, or a worldbuilding/ lore detail you want to flesh out, feel free to let the reader explore it before looping them back to the main path. 

2. Death scenes

One ‘easy’ way of adding choices would be to add death scenes. If you don’t fancy writing many different deaths, just write one or two death scenes and link all the different deaths to these pages. As you go through the story, think of potential ways for the protagonist to either die or reach a ‘non-winning’ ending, then add links to premature endings there.

3. Variables

You mentioned that you have one main path, but three other endings in mind, and the branching occurs in the last section. However, you could set it up so that the ending is based on a combination of all the choices that the reader made throughout the story. 

For example: the reader gets to choose a way to respond to the antagonist, but on the next page, it seems like the choice does not immediately matter because the antagonist ignores their remark and the story continues. 

If the protagonist chooses to make an angry retort instead of a peaceful one, you could add 1 to the variable ‘anger’. When they reach the last section, if the reader made enough choices motivated by anger (determined by their score under the variable ‘anger’), then this means they reach the ending where the protagonist’s anger is unleashed upon the antagonist.

Best of luck with your storygame! Hope everything goes well :)

Struggles with finishing

one month ago
Nice to see you back!

Your are way ahead of a lot of people here as far as actual concrete progress on a big project goes, if you've managed this far I don't think you have anything to worry about.

Maybe spend some time thinking of ways those moral choices can be worked up to more meaningfully and naturally as the story progresses, and incorporate those as alternate scenes. If branch and bottleneck (as Ogre described) feels like a good fit, there's nothing wrong with that.

Don't feel locked into a certain branching style, what you see as the "preferred" way is mostly just writers writing what they want and being damn good and entertaining enough that readers wanted more. If you are chadly enough you can break the rules and make your own.

Struggles with finishing

one month ago
Speaking of breaking the rules... If you really want to break the rules here at CYS, there's nothing limiting the number of words you put on one page. In other words, if you don't have a lot of pathways, but have a good story, you could certainly put 10,000 words on one page and then have the reader make their first choice. Will people like it? Do you care if they like it?

Struggles with finishing

one month ago

Well, I do have to warn everyone who wants to put 10.000 words on their first page: be prepared that no one is going to bother reading your story for at least a good while or forever. Perhaps you may have noticed, but in most of the popular/well-read stories on the site, their words/page ratio is about 500-1000, 1500 is really stretching it and 2000 is straight up a big turn off for most.  

But, yeah, think of it a little, but with the site's absolute obscurity and the unwillingness of many site users to read, fame might not be something you can obtain here.

As for tips: lots of people have already said useful stuff. One thing I have to add is that it might be easier for you to visualize your outline now as a huge map rather than a short story. It makes keeping track of choices and other important stats a lot easier and can keep your focus on the big picture. Something like this would come in pretty handy, especially when you are afraid to do something a little more extravagant.

I quickly made a small example of an outline: drawing programs are not necessary, colored pens and a notepad will do. It doesn't have to look fancy or something, it is just a helpful tool for yourself to use at your discretion. This example of a choice tree will also illustrate what some peeps are telling you about. 

Pink represents the gauntlet style of branching.

What the blue lines indicate is the bottleneck branching.

The red is about the "false choices" one can choose to include. The green is again to indicate stat changes or when a certain stat is required to choose a path. Through the inclusion that stat, what otherwise would be only two endings, can now have three or even four endings without changing much of the structure!

Mix and match these techniques a little and I think you can make any linear novel interactive fiction.

As for my suggestions:

Minimal pain and time for your side: gauntlet style and fake choices. 

A little more pain and headaches: +stat usage and bottleneck branching just like the others have suggested.

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Addendum: Well, this is just my opinion, but it is easier to craft a story with the interactive element in mind from the very beginning rather than trying to wack an already existing thing into submission. It lets you just take more advantage of the medium this way and let you be a little more creative with how you approach branching, stats etc.

HOWEVER

Some people just do whatever it suits them and do just fine haha. From what I can read from the old forum interviews, Endmaster seems to just write out a story from beginning to end and every now and then inserts another branching story whenever he feels like it, just like what you have been doing I guess. 

Edit: I'm really starting to feel that the article: "Choose-Your-Own-Stories, Paths, and Writing" needs another update to make it a little more detailed considering these questions lately. Perhaps pictures and the inclusions of these suggestions would be nice to have.

Struggles with finishing

one month ago

Boy I need to get my mind out of the gutter. This IS a writing site after all. Why would the post title mean anything else?

Struggles with finishing

one month ago

Yeah, Yummyfood! Seriously, what is wrong with some people? ^_^

Struggles with finishing

24 days ago

I, sadly, have to admit that I too had my brain think of something else.