10 Things About: Writing Interactive Fiction

10 Things You Should Know About:
Writing Interactive Fiction

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Those that choose to play Interactive Fiction did so specifically for the STORY. Make that Story worth reading. Seriously. Do you honestly think the people who deliberately choose to play an Interactive Fiction --a Story game-- such as a Visual Novel don't know what they're getting into? Point Blank: They're in it for the STORY, and they want one worth reading.  

DO something, SHOW something, or Make something HAPPEN. Interactive Fiction games, including the Visual Novel, may be "all about the Story," but what makes them Interactive are the opportunities to change that story through CHOICE. To put it very bluntly, no matter what you, the Creator, intend to accomplish by offering menus of Choices in your Interactive Fiction; statistic changes, scene changes, additional information, or clues... your Players make their selections specifically to make the Story they're reading change.  

Offer Choices that Affect the Player -- not just the Story. Everyone knows that selection; Making a Choice in an Interactive Fiction game, such as a Visual Novel, is supposed to affect the Story. However, choice selection also offers a fantastic opportunity to affect the Player, or more accurately; affect the Player's FEELINGS about their choice.

Play the Trickster and Think: Sneaky. Make the Player think they know what the results of their selection will be through; misleading facts, misleading dialog, characters that omit or hide things, and characters that lie. Once the Player catches on to the fact that they don't actually know what's going on --that they are not fully informed-- then the Suffering begins!

 If it doesn't affect the Player's Decisions -- Delete IT! Anything that Can be cut out of your game Should be cut out. This includes: Unnecessary Back-Story. If the events that happened to the main character before the actual Game begins do not directly affect the decisions the Player will have to make then those facts are Not Needed.Anything that's Not Needed Doesn't Belong in your Game!
On the other hand, if these same facts add Character and offer insight to the main character's thoughts and actions then they DO Matter. Those should be included. However, there's no need to waste time, text, and game assets; music, backgrounds, character images... on whole scenes that take place in the past to show said facts. A quick spot of dialog mentioning them is good enough.

Just because You, the Creator, consider a particular Ending 'True' does NOT mean your Players will. Just because you, the creator, have decided that one Ending in particular is the 'True' Ending does not mean you can short-change the rest of the Endings! Treat each and every ending as a 'True' ending, even if the Main Character suddenly dies. Anything less is a direct insult to the player that didn't get your 'True' ending. This is especially true if your Interactive Fiction is a Romance.

Time, Money, Images, Music, or Sound Effects... You will always run Short of Something.When building your Interactive Fiction, no matter how many assets you get your grubby little mitts on, there will always be that certain something you don't even know you need -- until it comes time to code that one particular scene.

You could pay a hefty chunk of change to get a professional to make exactly what you want, or go back to the professional you already hired and pay them a hefty chunk of change to adjust what you already have -- IF they still have the original files to work from. Or find a way to work around the problem.  In other words: Get Creative and find a way to use what you already have.

7. Realize Your Limitations 

The key to Successful Game Creation is NOT trying to Do it ALL! Especially, the First time. If you want to make successful (read: popular) games, FIRST you need to learn different ways to get around Your Limitations, preferably in small, easily digestible, bite-sized chunks (read: small individual games,) that you Build upon. Impatience and Pride.

These two vices encourage new creators to start projects that are much too big for their skill and experience levels. Sure, you can buy art, and hire skilled help, but that is no guarantee that the project will turn out good. Certainly not good enough for people to pay money for it. There are literally thousands of games made by highly skilled people with extremely expensive resources that No One Will Buy because despite all the pretty graphics, they're Crap. Just ask the gamers around you. I assure you, they'll be able to list at least six professionally made Crap games just off the top of their heads.

8. Learn Proper Grammar -- Or Else...!   
Get it Right! Or face the Wrath of your Readers! You want proof? Take a good look at the reviews and comment posts the players leave. If there are grammar and spelling mistakes in that Interactive Fiction THAT'S where you'll find them. Creativity is No Excuse for Sloppy Grammar or Punctuation! I don't give a crap how many people tell you: "It's okay to be Creative with your writing." Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentence Structure are NOT areas where Creativity belongs. If you want to be Creative, do it in your Art style, Plotting, Dialog, and Characters. That's where creativity belongs.

9. Trim all Excess Fat.
Keep your Interactive Fiction Firm and Tight! Just because you Can make your Interactive Fiction longer with additional fluff does Not mean you should! Don't make your game a chore for your Players to read. Only keep in what you actually need. Anything more is Excess Fat.

How does Excess Fat happen?  It happens because there are always going to be scenes and routes you, the creator, will enjoy writing more than others. Those scenes are where Excess Fat creeps in. The only way to fix excess fat is with EDITING. That means going though all of your text before you put it in your game and Cutting Out what you don't actually need to make the Interactive Fiction work.  

10. Start with a PLAN!  
Planning before you commit time and resources to a project is especially important if you have a Deadline, or are working with a Team of Creators.
Think: If it's costly for an ordinary Novel in terms of multiple drafts and rewrites, then it is doubly costly for an Interactive Fiction such as a Visual Novel, not only in multiple drafts and rewrites, but coding, graphics, music, SFX, voice actors, and art.


  1. Hi, and thanks for your observations. I think I need point number seven hard coded into my brain. Being a supreme possibility thinker I never appreciated the value of the other side.

    1. I know that feeling!
      -- You get his great idea....! Only its got so many bells and whistles that there's no way in hell you can make it without a whole company of artists and coders behind you. Drives me crazy!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I want to make my own lewd novels and needed this!
    Keep it up ;)