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Writing a StoryGame - How to's, Hints and Tips

 
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Chinaren
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 4:51 pm    Post subject: Writing a StoryGame - How to's, Hints and Tips Reply with quote

Writing a StoryGame.

So many newbies seem to ask questions about SGames and how to write them, I thought I would put down some things that I do. This is only my personal view, no doubt everyone has their own ways. Feel free to add below!

Note: This isn't a text on how to write a story. You can find plenty of advice about writing elsewhere.

First.

Even though we have several FAQs, no one seems to read them, so here is some basic stuff I seem to repeat all the time:

The Internet isn't a book. Put spaces between your paragraphs and speech! And use paragraphs! Look:

Hark paused for a moment, but then sighed and nodded. Tarall and he stepped back as Byrold bowed his head in prayer. He stood still for a good minute, speaking quietly on the stage, whilst hundreds looked on.
Finally he raised his eyes and looked at Brone. I am ready. The Duke smiled and brought his weapon up. Then let us finish this. With no warning he lunged forward, and Byrold was forced to skip back, tripping over his own feet to avoid being gutted. Even so he barely managed it, landing on his back on the platform as Brone swung down.
Byrold yelled and rolled to the side, falling off the stage and landing in the front row, who scattered.


Is much easier to read as:

Hark paused for a moment, but then sighed and nodded. Tarall and he stepped back as Byrold bowed his head in prayer. He stood still for a good minute, speaking quietly on the stage, whilst hundreds looked on.

Finally he raised his eyes and looked at Brone. I am ready.

The Duke smiled and brought his weapon up. Then let us finish this.

With no warning he lunged forward, and Byrold was forced to skip back, tripping over his own feet to avoid being gutted. Even so he barely managed it, landing on his back on the platform as Brone swung down.

Byrold yelled and rolled to the side, falling off the stage and landing in the front row, who scattered.

If a new person speaks, start a new line dammit!

Check your work!

I make an effort to read all new stories. However, if it contains error after error, the chances are I am not going to finish your first chapter, and I will be reluctant to come back again.

Any modern word pro contains a spell check. If you don't have one you can download Open Office (I am typing this on OO). It is free and good. Do a search, you will find it.

That said, WPs won't correct the context. Look: He laid bear his sole. He laid bare his soul. See what I mean?

Oh, my pet hate: Loose and lose. Lose is: I don't want to lose my phone. Loose is: My pants are loose.

The same goes for grammar. This isn't as easy to check as the spelling, so I am not going to babble on about it here.

If you read your work, not once, not twice, but about five times, you should hopefully catch most of the errors.

Length:

Each SGame chapter should be between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Two paragraphs does not a chapter make.

First chapters.

The first chapters of every SGame should go in the New SGame section. You can put a prologue up for sure. However, until you have done a chapter, a DP (decision point), and had a poll, then it isn't going to be considered for the main forums. And the main forums is where most people go to read the stories.

A common mistake:

Often new writers have a character lose his/her family to bandits, train to be a heroic fighter, and then plunge into an adventure within ten lines. Arg!

Take your time! Build your story slowly. Add characters, build them up, flesh out your world! The above little plot line should take at least five chapters if you rush it!

Plot:

Even though SGaming is about letting the readers choose the twists and turns, I usually have a basic plot outlined before I start writing chapter 1. Sometimes the readers ideas will send the story off in a totally different direction, sometimes you can follow your plot. Either way, it is a good idea to have something in mind before you start.

Finishing a SGame.

I would say that about 80% of SGames don't get past the first couple of chapters. Out of the other 20%, probably half to three quarters get to about chapter 8 and stall.

So how to keep going?

Having a plot idea helps. It gives you something to aim for. A target. This can help write chapters too. Often I think of a decision point for a chapter before I write the chapter. Again, this gives you a goal to aim for.

No one is reading my story!

My first SGame went about five chapters before more than about 2 people commented. Even then, I only had about five comments a chapter usually. However, if you constantly start stories, then give up, then people are going to stop reading them altogether because they believe you won't keep going.

Remember too, often people do read, but don't comment!

When you put up a new chapter, change the title (edit your first post). Also when you put up a poll, add a new comment saying so, to bump the thread up again.

Don't keep putting 'bump' comments in!

Another hint: If you read, comment and play in other people's SGames, then they are far more likely to respond in kind and read yours. I find that even though I do try and read people's stories, I am far more likely to make an effort if someone has played one of mine.

Interesting DPs.

A good DP is hard to do, and even after more than a year here, I never know what DPs will get people going. Sometimes I think I have a great DP, yet it gets a lackluster response. On the other hand, DPs I think are a bit lame can get tons of comments.

The only thing I can suggest is to try and make it a little bit 'open', with room for suggestions, but not too open! Give a bit of a framework to work in. Try and avoid 'left' or 'right' decisions that don't have rational behind them.

Conclusion.

There. That's all I can think of just now, I am sure there is much more.

Authors: Please feel to add your own hints and comments below, but anything off topic will be ruthlessly deleted.
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Alegria
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2006 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not giving up on your SG means in the long run too. When I started Sojourner's Journey, my first Storygame (find it in the Hall of Legends), it skyrocketed, quickly getting SGotM. Then, afterwards, it became depopulated. I considered giving it up, but then I found out more people were reading it than I thought.

Moral of the story:

If you have a large reader base right off the bat, but it seems to turn from a river to a stream, it doesn't mean your story is bad or neglected, either.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2006 12:56 pm    Post subject: Time Reply with quote

Time Between Chapters

When I started on IF, one of my first questions was:

"How long should I wait before starting another chapter?"

Some authors have a hard time writing the mandatory chapter a month, but some of us can't wait to move on. My basic formula is 3-7 days of commenting and 4-7 days of voting. It serves me well because it's important to keep the storygame moving but you don't want to leave anyone behind.

Most of the readers on IF (or at least the commenters) are on frequently, so three days will catch most of the regulars for commenting and suggesting poll options. A full week is good for getting readers who have a schedule and only check IF on certain days of the week. The same principle applies to voting. The bi-weekly method of writing chapters ensures the storygame makes progress and tends to keep active readers more entertained. Your storygame can survive the occasional once a month, but most of the time, after a month, there's been too many other stories going on and a lot of the important details are hazy in the minds of the readers.

The key is regularity. It's very hard to get new readers in a well established storygame, so you need to make sure the ones you've got don't lose patience. You manage that by making it apparent when you'll be writing new chapters and writing them on a reliable schedule.

On the other hand, if you rush on to new chapters too soon, your readers might soon realize they're several chapters behind after only a week or two and might choose to follow a storygame they can keep up with and feel a part of all the way through.

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