Dec 29


4 Common Mistakes in Interactive Novels

Posted by: Dan Fabulich | Comments (3)

Are you writing an interactive novel using ChoiceScript? Don’t make these common mistakes!

  1. Not Enough Delayed Branching

    In “By the Numbers: How to Write a Long Interactive Novel That Doesn’t Suck“, we draw a distinction between choices that branch the story immediately and choices that cause the story to branch in a later chapter. It’s impossible to write a story with lots of choices if all choices branch the story immediately; delayed branching solves that problem nicely.

    When authors try to write a linear story without delayed branching, the result is a game where the player makes minor choices that don’t affect the plot.

    Fix: Use “if” sections. Put some lines in each chapter that describe how earlier chapters affect the current events.

  2. Bad Mix of Stats

    In “7 Rules for Designing Great Stats” we distinguish between different types of stats: skills, personality traits, morality traits, world stats, resources, and goals.

    A good game should probably have a mix of all of those. A particularly common mistake is to offer only skills, like Strength and Intelligence.

    Fix: Add at least one stat from each category.

  3. Easy Choices

    In 5 Rules for Writing Interesting Choices in Multiple-Choice Games we talk about how to design interesting choices. One particularly common mistake is to tell a story where most choices have one “right” answer, and all of the others are wrong. (That can be OK in some cases, but it should be the exception, not the rule.)

    Interesting choices should be “hard” because all of the choices are compelling.

    Fix: Make sure each option is worth choosing. Even “wrong” answers should be fun. (Never include a boring “death” ending. If the main character dies, make it an awesome death scene, to encourage players to try again.)

  4. Too Many Words per Choice

    We call this problem the “wall of text,” when the author goes on for pages and pages at a time, without giving the player an opportunity to interact with the story by making a choice.

    Fix: After about 100-200 words of text in the main body, consider adding something for the player to do, even if it’s just a *fake_choice asking how the player feels about what’s happening. Avoid 400 words or more between player choices.


  1. Simski says:

    A short but useful article. I’ll have to look into 2) for the game I’m currently writing.
    Another mistake could be “Don’t get your spelling and grammar checked”. I think a lot of authors (like myself) aren’t native speakers and thus have some problems with English that could easily be fixed by a proof-reader.

  2. Red Murray says:

    I’m the opposite of you Simski. I do a lot of writing myself and am fairly familiar with writing short novels/stories and in spite of my fairly adequate computing skills, I can never grasp the code that makes up the choice of games series. I have tried on multiple occasions to create a piece of interactive fiction however each and every time I mess up with changing the names of chapters and stats, as well as adding more. A simple thing to be stuck on I know but it is nonetheless incredibly frustrating. I would appreciate it if someone would comment on what I am doing wrong, because I’m not entirely sure about how to:
    a) add stats and change their names, where and what do I change exactly? There are a few documents which contain the statistics for the game but I don’t know how to simply change their names without introducing a huge amount of errors, and
    b) adding chapters, basically for the same reason.

  3. Havenstone says:

    Hey Red, head over to the forum and ask those questions —

    Lots of helpful folk there who can point you in the right direction.

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