How to Write Interactive Fiction and Interactive Audio Stories – 027 – Plotting

Chapters

Once you are done brainstorming, return to your story idea. Divide it into several chapters that will form your larger story parts. Returning to the example of “The Lord of the Rings”, this could look as follows:

Chapter 1

The hero learns that he is in possession of a powerful artifact that has to be destroyed in order to defeat the enemy. With his companions, he begins his journey to Rivendell to hand the powerful ring over to the elves.

Chapter 2

On his way, they are being attacked by Ringwraiths from which they have to flee. This takes them into the Old Forest where the group is assaulted by Barrow-wights. But a powerful creature called Tom Bombadil saves them.

Chapter 3

In the next town, the hero meets Aragorn whom he initially distrusts but who turns out to be an ally and helps him escape from the Ringwraiths a second time.

Chapter 4

On the last stretch of their journey to Rivendell, the group gets attacked two more times by the Ringwraiths and the hero gets seriously injured. Finally, the group reaches the elves who announce that they will hold a council to work out a joint plan for fighting the enemy.

Scenes

For these chapters you then develop separate scenes, or smaller story parts, that consist of two or three subsequent Player Choices. You do not have to detail all of these scenes beforehand, and they do not have to cover all of the chapters for now. It is sufficient to start with the most important scenes and Player Choices of the first chapter and then finish writing it before you begin planning your second chapter. The advantage being that you are not too restricted while writing your story and can more easily work new and spontaneous ideas into your next chapters.

Using your brainstorming ideas, start to combine these ideas, rearrange them, remove those elements that do not fit, and add new things if necessary. At the end of this process your scenes should form a clear arc of suspense. While planning your scenes, focus mainly on the logical order of things and keep your descriptions short. This will allow you to identify logical errors early on and prevents you from writing loads of text that you might not be able to use later on. It would also make it harder for you to discard some of these ideas, for this would mean to destroy a lot of your earlier work which no one likes to do.

For drafting the individual scenes, you can let yourself be guided by the following questions:

  • What is the goal of the scene and how can the player accomplish it? (For example free a prisoner, reach a certain place, defeat an enemy, find an item, win somebody over.)
  • Which conflicts prevent the player from reaching them goal and how can they handle or avoid them? What happens if the player does not reach their goal? And what consequences would this have for the player character, the other characters, and the rest of the story?
  • Are there any other characters besides the hero in this scene? If yes, what is their relationship with the hero? Are they friendly, hostile, or neutral towards them? And how exactly will they react to the hero’s actions?
  • Which abilities, information, or items are available to the hero in this scene and what is the result of using them?

Plan your Player Choices from the beginning in such a way that every decision has real consequences. This does not need to mean a branching of the story, but the player’s choices should have an influence on the player character or the world, or should at least trigger the player’s emotions.

The player also needs a foundation formaking their decisions . They cannot make a meaningful choice if they have no idea what the consequences will be. If this foundation is missing more often than not, the player will feel maneuvered and constrained by the story. This is also the case when one of the Player Choices is clearly better or worse than the others. The player will then get the feeling that you are withholding real choices from them, similar to a fake choice.

But do not hesitate to break with these rules once in a while. Not every scene can be designed absolutely perfectly. It is far more important that the story and the flow of the game feel harmonious on the whole.

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