Starting to write interactive fiction can seem like staring into the vast waters, the possibilities within the genre like waves crashing in, unable to steer the boat clear of the storm.
In this post, we’ll discuss five simple steps an author can take when beginning to test the waters of writing branching stories.
1. Read Some Interactive Fiction
Reading interactive stories of different lengths and genres is a great way to find out what has been done before. It is essential for an author to understand how such stories should flow and connect. Some interactive stories are longer and can be more complex than others. We recommend reading a variety of different stories to get a grasp of what possibilities there are. The Sana app features both short stories with relatively simple branchings like “Flyover States” and “Under your Skin”, and longer more complex stories like “The Primrose” and its sequel “The Primrose and the Royal Pirate Brigade”. As for physical books, we would recommend reading “My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel” by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris or “Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure” by Ryan North. Understanding what’s possible, what has been done before, and identifying what readers find the most interesting is one of the most important steps an aspiring author can take before beginning their own interactive story writing journey.
2. Decide On Your Level of Complexity
As mentioned before, interactive stories can be either as simple or complex as the author want it to be. However, we recommend that authors keep the structure of their first interactive stories simple and not too convoluted. A simple and straightforward “A or B” choice structure will help the first stories not be too overwhelming for the author to write. All published stories in the Sana app are made using a simple 2-choice branching system, and yet there’s no limit to how simple or complicated they can be. Our team thinks that this system is ideal for anyone who wants to create their own branching stories.
3. Make an Outline
Creating an outline is a helpful step in creating any written work, but when it comes to writing interactive stories, creating an outline is essential. An outline helps the author better understand where their story is going and how the choices available to the reader are being connected to the main plot. In an outline, the author defines the basic idea of their story, major plot points, and where and how the reader will be able to interact with the story. An outline helps the author stay focused and allows them to concentrate on how the reader’s choices will connect with one another. This makes it also easier to early on spot potential problems with the story structure or plot.
4. Get Some Feedback
Receiving feedback from people who regularly read and/or write interactive stories is a great way to understand how stories can be optimized and improved. Asking for feedback in the early stages of a creative endeavor might seem intimidating, but feedback gained in the early stages of the writing process can really save time and headaches later on. Keeping an open mind and being open to feedback and critique will help make the story the best it can be! We recommend asking for feedback from places like the interactive fiction subreddit or the Interactive Fiction Community Forum.
Once your story has a solid outline, it’s time to really start writing! While some dialog and other pieces of text might have been drafted out during the outline process, it is now that those pieces and the rest of the story becomes more fleshed out. Remember to keep your writing documents well organized and have your story sections clearly labeled, trust us on this one -writing interactive fiction in a linear matter can get very disorienting very quickly-
Trying something new, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone aren’t always an easy thing to do, but with some proper research, planning, listening to feedback and practice, we think that any author can make the jump from traditional fiction to branching fiction!
Have you thought about creating an interactive story? Are you looking for a tool to test the waters on for your first interactive story? Or are you an already experienced writer who’s looking for an intuitive and simple-to-use tool for you to write your new interactive story on, or are you interested in converting some of your existing work into a more immersive experience for your readers?
We at Sana Stories are currently developing our own tool for creating branching stories. Right now we are looking for writers who could test our yet unpublished tool and give us feedback. We would be happy to receive feedback from anyone who would like to play around with it. However, should you complete a piece while testing our writing tool and want to publish it in our Sana app, then we would like to offer a testing fee of 100€/118$ or a giftcard for the same sum, to show our appreciation for helping us polish the tool. We would also offer royalties from your story being read in our app.
If you would like to be a tester of our writing tool, or wan’t to know more, send us an email at email@example.com or reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and we will gladly tell you more!