One of the hardest parts of writing for me is making choices. I’m an INFP, and the “P” means I prefer leaving things open-ended. Every story has multiple paths it could take. Many of them are equally interesting.
A few months ago, I read an article on SWFA.org about Twine, a program for creating interactive fiction. It brought back all my memories of text-based videogames like Shadowgate and Maniac Mansion, and all those Choose Your Own Adventure books I loved as a kid.
It also made me think of the games I’ve enjoyed most lately: shorter, episodic games like Life Is Strange or Telltale’s A Wolf Among Us. I made the decision that sometime soon, I would tackle an interactive story or text-based game.
Then while I was on my “writing retreat on rails” train trip, a story concept came to me. The central images were a young girl who has a troubled relationship with her single father, and a run-down bowling alley that hides a nexus in space-time, basically a way-station between planets, dimensions and realities.
“Daddy always pitched a fit about me going to The Galaxy. He said it was where freaks and weirdos hung out. But he didn’t realize two things: first, the freaks and weirdos were half the draw for a kid who he treated like one, and second, just how incomprehensibly right he was.”
I would love to say I immediately realized this story would be a perfect fit for branching fiction. But I totally did not. Instead, I sketched out some ideas while they were fresh in my mind, but I just couldn’t decide on an ending. There were just too many tantalizing ways this story could go to settle on one.
Duh. Why pick one? Why not explore several of them, and let the reader choose what kind of story it became?
So now, I’ve started plotting Life in The Galaxy as my first foray into interactive fiction. I have been mapping out the story beats, the three main quests, which can be taken in any order, and the different conclusions.
I’m hoping to have a rough, playable prototype done in a week or two. The beautiful thing is, I can keep improving it in layers – adding more side quests/subplots, maybe adding background music or still images. So in a few months or a year, it could evolve into something pretty neat.
I still have to decide on a scripting tool. I have it narrowed down to Twine, StoryNexus, Choice of Games and Inklewriter. They all have their pros and cons. I also need to decide if it’s more an interactive novel, or text-based game. If I want to include some puzzles, or just choices.
But I’m excited about the project, in the same way I was excited about writing fiction again in 2012, and in the same way I was excited about learning basic HTML in 2004. I like learning new things, and this is a new thing that just builds on skills I’ve already got.
Wish me luck!