How to Write Interactive Fiction and Interactive Audio Stories – 039 – The Perfect Interactive Audiobook

Adaption for Voice

The mechanics and concept of an app game like Candy Crush cannot be transferred to Voice so easily, of course. Also, a story will have to be more specific in its details than a visual game. Below you will find an attempt to at least try to create the necessary mindset:

1. Familiar Game Mechanic

Keep game mechanics simple. Uniqueness of the interactive story will have to arise from the plot and the characters. The mechanics, however, should be simple enough that even players who have never played an interactive story before can master them. So make sure that your Player Choices are phrased in clear language and offer unambiguous Player Utterances.

2. Mainstream Setting

The most popular genres for audiobooks are crime stories, thrillers, historical fiction, fantasy, and love stories. After that come science fiction and horror. So pick a genre that many players would be interested in, or combine several of them. How about a love story taking place in the Middle Ages that also involves fantastical elements. Also think about the tonality of your story: humorous, thrilling, dramatic, suspenseful, or maybe epic?

3. Easy Access

The first three to five story segments and Player Choices have to be very short, but exciting. Ideally, you want your player to make their first decision after just ten to twenty seconds, and that repeatedly. After that, the player will have understood how the game works. They have arrived in the story and know what kind of character they are going to play.

4. Brilliant Simplicity

Keep your story simple and clear. Do not confuse the player. Put the challenge into the choices they will have to make. Your player should still be able to remember what happened the following day, otherwise they might decide to not continue your story.

5. Perfect Game Rhythm

What an optimal segment length for the rest of the story would be, is hard to say. It will mainly depend on whether your players are audiobook listeners or gamers. The former will prefer longer passages, the latter shorter ones. Try to find out what the ideal length for your target audience is.

In TWIST, you can have a look at user behavior and thus analyze at which points most of your players leave the story. These sections can then be reworked by changing either their length, language, or contents.

6. Trigger Moments

Voice technology is on the rise. Voice assistants can already be found on many smartphones and in cars. Voice is a mobile technology which can offer you an idea of which trigger moments you should gear your story toward. Our recommendation is to have one story with many shorter episodes that are self-contained but always end with a cliffhanger. This will enable your players to play one or two episodes on the road or several at home on their couch. 

7. Player Retention

Design your story in such a way that your players can identify with the events as well as the player character. Since you will be writing from a second-person viewpoint and since the player will frequently make choices, this is both easy and hard. Easy because the player herself can define the personality of the player character through their decisions. Hard because you as the author will still have to predefine some aspects of the player character to tell the story you want to tell. Also make your secondary characters unique, distinguishable, and interesting. Each encounter and every dialogue has to be an exciting and memorable experience for the player, and each farewell to a secondary character, a loss.

8. Monetization

The Candy Crush example has already illustrated this: your story should be completely free-to-play to have maximum reach with as many players as possible accessing it. By using upselling and consumables, you give your players the opportunity to prolong the fun and reduce waiting periods. What this looks like and which monetization models are currently available on Voice will be explained in Chapter 16: Monetization.

GLOSSAR

Consumable: (paid) game resource that depletes while playing and needs to be replenished (monetary transaction).

Upsell: to encourage a user, through the use of your smaller, cheaper (or even free) products, to buy your larger, more expensive products.

Summary

Some bestseller elements:

  • Bestsellers have a high reach, high attraction and retention, and are of high value. They achieve this through high usability, quality, innovation, discovery, and the capacity to excite their audience.
  • A simple, but gripping premise attracts attention.
  • Simplicity in narration and a familiarity with the narrative elements used allow for high accessibility. At the same time, innovative and unique elements pique curiosity.
  • The story allows the player to undertake the hero’s journey together with the main character, and the main character is designed in such a way that a large audience can identify with them.
  • The characters of the story are vivid, interesting, and three-dimensional.
  • There are many meaningful conflicts that grip the audience who wants to see them resolved.
  • The story conforms to known writing conventions but knows when and how to break with them to surprise and grip the audience.
 

A successful game concept for interactive stories:

  • Do not overwhelm the player with complex game mechanics. Your interactive story should be simple and accessible.
  • Use a mainstream setting that speaks to many players, and pick a specific and consistent narrative atmosphere, be it humorous or suspenseful.
  • Introduce your players into the story with short text segments and many Player Choices.
  • Adjust the length of the later text segments to the preferences of your target audience. “Gamers” want shorter segments, “listeners” prefer longer ones.
  • Keep your story simple and clear so that players can follow it and easily remember what happened.
  • Adjust your story to your target audience’s playing environment. Use shorter episodes that end in cliffhangers to allow for shorter or longer playing sessions.
  • Give your player the opportunity to identify with the player character and to build meaningful relationships with the other characters.
  • Your story should be completely free-to-play to not exclude any players. You can still earn money through upselling and in-skill purchases.
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